Remembering a Spanish pioneer who ruled Roland Garros

 - Alex Sharp

Andres Gimeno’s magnificent career crossed into the Open Era, which included his 1972 triumph in Paris.

©Gil de Kermadec/FFT

Former Roland-Garros champion Andres Gimeno helped provide the platform for future generations of Spanish stars such as Rafael Nadal to flourish on courts across the world. 

Gimeno, one of his country’s first players to compete on the global stage, passed away aged 82 on Tuesday, with a magnificent legacy left behind.

©Gil de Kermadec/FFT

Still the oldest Roland-Garros men’s singles champion in the Open era

In 1972 he became the oldest Roland-Garros men’s singles champion in the Open era at 34 years and 10 months old. That record still stands today despite the era of longevity in the modern game.

Gimeno was also dedicated to flying the flag for Spain, posting an impressive 18-5 Davis Cup singles record, alongside 5-5 in doubles action.

Such success combined with compatriot and close friend Manolo Santana (1961 and 1964 Roland-Garros champion) prompted sustained silverware for their homeland. For example, since Santana’s initial title tilt in 1961, the Roland-Garros men’s trophy has been won 20 times by a Spaniard.

“Without doubt one of the pioneers of tennis in Spain,” reigning Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal posted on Twitter. “A great athlete. A heartfelt greeting to your family.”

"A tireless competitor"

Recalling 1972, Gimeno navigated through two five-set battles, before prevailing past Stan Smith in a four-set quarter-final. Into the final and Gimeno recovered from a set deficit to storm 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 past home charge Patrick Proisy.

© Chantal Kuntz/FFT

“Andres was a tireless competitor in his day. Having faced him in some big matches, including Roland-Garros 1972, I can vouch for that for sure. He was also a very smart player, very strategic. Mostly though, I'll remember Andres as a really good guy. He was well liked by his peers. Whether you lost to him or you beat him, it was hard not to like Andres," stated Stan Smith, the current president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Andres Gimeno©Gil de Kermadec/FFT

An inspiring example

“He was of a generation that led Spain to becoming one of the world’s great tennis nations, and he will always be remembered by the tennis world as one of our sport’s all-time greats and most inspiring champions.”

After retiring from competitive tennis in 1974, Gimeno remained intrinsically involved in the sport in broadcasting, as a coach and owner of a tennis club on home soil.