April 7, 2008
Mantilla Retires from Professional Tennis
Former Top 10 player Felix Mantilla has announced his retirement from professional tennis, a year after returning to the ATP circuit following his successful fight against skin cancer.
The 33-year-old Mantilla captured his final title in 2003 at the ATP Masters Series event in Rome, but he celebrated one of his most significant victories last year in his hometown event in Barcelona when he defeated Uzbekistani Farrukh Dustov in the first round.
When a wrist injury forced him to visit the doctor instead of attending a two-month training camp in Cuba in late 2005, the Spaniard learned that he had a cancerous mole on his back - which left undiagnosed could have been fatal. Mantilla had the mole removed and a follow-up biopsy showed he was cancer-free, but he still elected to sit out the 2006 season.
He said: "It was more psychological. I was afraid to be playing. I didn't like it. Maybe it's the reaction that happens when you have the shock, the doctor tells you that you can die and you say, 'Wait, I am going to try to enjoy my life like I want.' In that moment, tennis was not the first priority."
But last April, a No. 1009-ranked Mantilla decided to step back onto the courts for the first time in 18 months, first at a Challenger event in Italy and then the ATP event in Barcelona.
"I didn’t want to end my career in that moment [his cancer scare]," said Mantilla after his first round win in Barcelona. "I was a fighter during all my years and I wanted to decide to finish when I want, not in that moment. That’s why I came back. It’s important for me, also to be back out in the sun, how I react.
"Now, in this moment I am enjoying more the small things. The [first-round] win is bigger for me maybe than winning tournaments before. Maybe people don’t understand that but if I understand that myself, it’s enough."
It proved Mantilla's last match win at the ATP-level, as he fell in his opening round matches in his appearances at Amersfoort and Umag in July. In June, he came up just shy of the Challenger title in Reggio Emilia, Italy, losing to Frenchman Olivier Patience in a third set tie-break.
Mantilla compiled a 313-218 ATP match record and 10 clay titles during his professional tennis career, enjoying his most successful season in 1997, when he won a career-high five titles in six finals and posted 42 clay victories. A year later, he broke into the Top 10 after reaching a Grand-Slam best semifinals at Roland Garros.
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