Manuel Orantes, a Spanish tennis star of the 1970s and 1980s, who defeated top-seeded Jimmy Connors to capture the 1975 US Open title and played an instrumental role in Spain’s Davis Cup efforts for many years, was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the Class of 2012.
A gentleman through and through, Spain’s Manuel Orantes was generally regarded as one of the kindest, friendliest players on tour. While there’s no questioning his congeniality, woe to the opponent who may have dismissed him as too kind. Beneath his heart of gold, lay the heart of a champion, and this Spanish tennis great certainly knew how to fight back for the win.
A dominant player throughout his career, Manuel reached the world No. 2 ranking in 1973, and remained in the year-end world top-10 for five consecutive years. He amassed an impressive 33 singles titles and 22 doubles titles during his lengthy career.
Manuel’s run for the 1975 US Open trophy goes down in history as one of the greatest Grand Slam matches ever. In the semifinals, Guillermo Vilas was leading two sets to one, and 5-0 in the fourth set, when Manuel made his move, winning seven games in a row and saving five match points to go to a fifth set. More than four hours after the match began, Manuel triumphed 6-4 in the fifth set and qualified for the finals well after midnight.
The next day he faced the seemingly invincible Jimmy Connors, a fan favorite who was No. 1 seed and defending champion. Not intimidated, Manuel decisively defeated Connors in straight sets to claim the US Open title.
A dedicated Davis Cupper, Manuel was a member of the Spanish team for fourteen years. He was integral in leading the team to the 1967 challenge round against Australia. In all, Manuel netted a winning record of 60 and 27 for his country, and he was also a member of Spain’s victorious 1978 World Team Cup team.
With his genuine sportsmanship, remarkable success on the courts, and devotion to the game, Manuel has truly earned his place among the greatest legends of tennis as a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012.