Sánchez turned pro in 1984 and won his first individual title in Nice in 1986 . In his career he won a total of 15 tournaments in singles. The highlight was winning the Italian Open in Rome in 1991. His highest position in the individual world rankings was 7th.
Sánchez is one of the most successful tennis families in the world. His sister Arantxa Sánchez Vicario and brother Javier Sánchez were also professional tennis players. In 1987 the two brothers faced each other in the final of the Spanish Open in Madrid, Emilio won the final in three sets. The family balance was a total of 10: 2 in favor of Emilio.
In 1998 Emilio Sánchez ended his career as a professional tennis player. From October 2005 he was captain of the Spanish Davis Cup team for two years .