Manuel Orantes

Manuel Orantes

Class of 2012

Master Player

Career Achievements

Top Ranking     
World No. 2 (1973)

Grand Slam Results
1-time major champion, and 2-time finalist

Career Titles
53

Career Record
Overall Record: 932-408
Singles Record: 641-253
Doubles Record: 291-155

Davis Cup
Member of the Spanish Davis Cup Team 1967-1980
Overall Record: 60-27
Singles Record: 39-19
Doubles Record: 21-8

Citizenship: ESP Born: February 6, 1949 in Granada, Spain Played: Left-handed

Spaniard Manuel Orantes had touch, finesse, control and sneaky power. He was poised, his strokes fluid and never rushed. Orantes was competitive, but one of the game’s finest sportsmen. His ever-present smile and unabashed personality made him a favorite among tour players and fans that saw him win championships in 10 different countries around the world.

The traits that earned him a place in Newport were never more apparent than at the 1975 US Open, when the No. 3 seeded Orantes taught No. 1 seed Jimmy Connors a lesson in patient, refined, and tactical tennis, dismantling the heavy favorite 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 for his first and only major championship. Orantes dictated the match with fluid groundstrokes that were his trademark. He jettisoned Connors left and right, flicking the ball off his racquet as though it was a yo-yo on strings doing fancy tricks. His ball placement was impeccable. When Connors chipped and charged, Orantes passed him with down-the-line accuracy or flicked a top spin lop that bounded helplessly away. He hit slice backhands and heavy topspin forehands that kept Connors off balance. When he won the title with a passing shot that slid past Connors’s backhand side, he dropped to his knees on the Har-Tru surface, briefly hugged a fan that had raced onto the court, shook Connors’s hand, and then descended to the stands to greet well-wishers.  “He played unbelievable,” Connors told Sports Illustrated. “I didn’t believe that it would be possible for him to hit passing shots and play like he did all the way through. But unfortunately for me, he did.”

Orantes was known as “Little Manuel” in homage and deference to fellow Spaniard “Big Manuel” Santana, a four-time major champion and the last European to win at Forest Hills – prior to Orantes – since World War II in 1965. Orantes won eight tournaments in 1975, the best year of his career, but needed to stage one of the biggest comebacks the US Open to square off against fan favorite Connors. In the semifinals, Argentinian Guillermo Vilas was leading two sets to one, and 5-0 in the fourth set, when Orantes seemingly pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He won seven games in a row and saved five match points to force a fifth set. More than four hours after the match began, Orantes triumphed, 6-4 in the fifth set and qualified for the final, well after midnight.

Orantes won 32 singles and 21 doubles titles in his career. He defeated all of the era’s leading players, including Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Björn Borg, John McEnroe, Roscoe Tanner, and Adriano Panatta, to name just a few. His titles were spread throughout the globe: He defeated Santana in Barcelona (1969), Panatta in Hamburg (1969), Ilie Năstase in Sweden (1972), Jan Kodeš in Rome (Italian Open, 1972), Wojtek Fibak in Houston, Texas to win the Masters Championship (1976), Eddie Dibbs and Harold Solomon at the U.S. Pro in Boston (1977, 1978). Orantes captured the U.S. Clay Court Championships in 1973, 1975, and 1977 defeating Georges Goven (6-4, 6-1, 6-4), Ashe (6-2, 6-2) and Connors (6-1, 6-3) respectively. After he captivated the tennis world by winning the US Open, Orantes won 14 more tournaments, his last in Bournemouth, England over Ángel Giménez in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

In 1974, Orantes reached the French Open final against a teenaged Borg. Orantes jumped out to a 2-0 sets lead, but Borg was en route to six titles in Paris. He found his penetrating baseline game, mixed it up with successful forays to net and sparkled in the final three sets, defeating Orantes, 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Orantes played the French 14 times, his favored Grand Slam event; the US Open nine times, Wimbledon on seven occasions, and the Australian only once, his first year on the tour in 1968. He was a semifinalist at the French Open and Wimbledon in 1972. Though he amassed 22 doubles titles, he appeared in only one major final, the French Open alongside with Jose Higueras, but the pair was beaten by Americans Gene Mayer and Hank Pfister, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Orantes reached the world No. 2 ranking in 1973, and remained in the year-end world Top 10 for five consecutive years (1973-78). He qualified for the ATP Masters Championships six consecutive years (1972-1977) and as a dedicated Davis Cup player, he was a member of the Spanish team for fourteen years, leading the team to the 1967 Final against Australia.

Grand Slam

Grand Slam Best Results

Titles

1 Singles

Singles
Australian Open: QF 1968
French Open: F 1974
Wimbledon: SF 1972
US Open: W 1975

Doubles
Australian Open: SF 1968
French Open: F 1978
Wimbledon: QF 1972
US Open: SF 1972