WHEN Spain’s Rafael Nadal won at the Australian Open final on Sunday it was his 21st Slam win and he swept into the record books as the player to have won the most gran slams in modern men’s tennis.
While the whole world knows about his legendary prowess on the courts, here are a run-down of some of the little known facts about his life.
His full name is Rafael Nadal Parera and was born on June 3, 1986, in Manacor (Mallorca), the son of Sebastian Nadal and Ana Maria Parera. He is named after his paternal grandfather, a musician known as Mestre Rafael Nadal who passed away in 2015 at the age of 86.
His uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, also found sporting success but as a footballer. He was a player for FC Barcelona when the team won five leagues, one Champions League, one European Cup Winners’ Cup, two European Super Cups, three Spanish Super Cups and two King’s Cups.
However it was another uncle who introduced Rafa. Toni Nadal, himself a tennis player introduced young Rafa to the sport at the age of three.
Throughout his childhood, Rafa played other sports but focussed on tennis and football. However, at the age of 12 he was forced to choose between the two and well, the rest is history.
When he was only 9-years-old he won the Balearic Tournament, and at 11-years-old he became champion of Spain for the first time. At the age of 15 he was proclaimed winner of the International Tournament Series of Mallorca, becoming the youngest player of all time to win an official ATP tournament, ranking him number 762.
He has accumulated a multitude of awards such as the Prince of Asturias Sports Award in 2008, the Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit in 2006, the Gold Medal for Merit in Work in 2014, and the National Sports Award for Best Spanish Athlete in 2006 and 2008.
He turned down an honorary degree from the University of the Balearic Islands believing it wasn’t right as he left school before finishing secondary education.
He met his wife Maria Francisca Perello, a friend of his sister from his home town Manacor in 2005 when he was just 18. They dated for 14 years until finally tying the knot in 2019 at a glamorous wedding attended by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.
He starred alongside the singer Shakira in the 2010 video for her song Gipsy. The Colombian chose Nadal because she ‘needed someone she could identify with’.
In 2008 he created the Rafa Nadal Foundation, whose president is his mother. The foundation’s mission is to help children and young people at risk of social exclusion through sport and education. In 2010 he opened a school called Rafael Nadal Tennis School in Anantapur, India, which also aims to help young people through sport. In 2011 he was awarded the ATP Aces for Charity.
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