Cancer Survivor Mantilla Wins Seniors Barcelona Tennis Title

Posted on April 19, 2009

Felix Mantilla completed an emotional comeback just two years after recovering from skin cancer as he became the first player in history to win an ATP Champions Tour and an ATP World Tour title in Barcelona. In the final of the Champions Cup on Sunday, Mantilla beat Albert Costa 6-4, 6-1.

The Spaniard, who won the ATP title in 1999, was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006 after undergoing tests on a mole on his back. The former top ten player made a brief comeback before retiring from the game, but went on to win his battle against the disease. Despite being given a clean bill of health, he did not expect to be back playing title-winning tennis in Barcelona.

"To be honest, I didn't think I'd be playing tennis like this again," said Mantilla, after completing victory at his maiden ATP Champions Tour event. "When I got my illness, I felt like I was retired and that it was finished. But then they gave me the possibility to come here and to play on the ATP Champions Tour and I thought 'Why not?' It's always nice to play your sport whilst having fun."

For Mantilla, today's win was the perfect end to an enjoyable week spent in his home city.

"I have really good memories of this Centre Court here in Barcelona," said Mantilla, who jumps to No.1 in the South African Airways Champions Tour Rankings. "Today it was a good match and both of us did our best. It's always special to be here and hopefully I can come back next year to defend my title."

Although his battle with cancer put a premature end to his career on the ATP Tour, since retiring Mantilla has remained involved in the tennis world. For the past year he has been working for Tennis Australia as a talent-spotter, and he now spends half of the year living Down Under working with young Australian Tennis players.

"I'm really happy that Tennis Australia gave me the opportunity to try and help them," he said. "I'm working to try and develop clay court tennis in Australia. We're hoping that the young kids can grow up playing on slower surfaces, because that will help their play on all surfaces."

In the third/fourth place play-off, Magnus Gustafsson defeated fellow Swede Anders Jarryd 6-7(3), 6-2, 11-9 (Champions' Tie Break) in a thrilling three-set encounter. Jarryd looked to be dominating his countryman early on, but Gustafsson pulled off a dramatic comeback, eventually saving two match points in the Champions' Tie Break before clinching the match.