Spain’s Most Successful Female Athlete: “My Parents Have Left Me With Nothing; I Don’t Speak With My Family”

Arantxa Sánchez Vicario with Parents in 1989Arantxa Sánchez Vicario with her parents in 1989

Spain’s Most Successful Female Athlete: “My Parents Have Left Me With Nothing; I Don’t Speak With My Family”
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario attacks her parents in her memoirs, accusing them of squandering her fortune and giving her equal treatment with her tennis-playing brothers Emilio and Javier
El País: “Mis padres me han dejado sin nada; no me hablo con mi familia”
J.J.M. reporting from Madrid February 5, 2012

“I was born into a family of tennis players, and I watched the sport ever since I was little. You may be born into something, but you have to work to keep polishing it and to become a champion. You sacrifice a lot in such a mental sport in which you have to know how to control your emotions,” says Arantxa Sánchez Vicario over the telephone from Moscow, where she has just finished her debut as coach of the Spanish women’s tennis team, which bowed to Russia 3-2 yesterday in the first round of the Federation Cup.

In 30 seconds, the ex-#1, winner of four major tournaments and four Olympic medals, has summarized the values of her whole life. In one breath, she has underlined the themes that marked a unique career: sacrifice, family, the mind, and emotions. These few phrases display the concepts at play in ¡Vamos! Memorias de una lucha, una vida y una mujer (Let’s Go! Memories of a Fight, a Life, and a Woman), her autobiography, which will be published tomorrow and which makes accusations against her family, according to the extracts published in El Mundo, which is publishing the work through La Esfera. “I don’t talk to my family,” writes the ex-player, married to businessman Pep Santacana since 2008 despite the “categorical” opposition of her family members. “They’ve left me with nothing.”

There are now two opposing books dedicated to one clan, the Sánchez Vicarios. The other is Forja de Campeones (Force of Champions), which was written by Emilio Sánchez and Marisa Vicario, the parents of Arantxa, Emilio (formerly #1 in doubles, #7 in singles, and an Olympic silver medalist), Javier (ex-#23), and Marisa; it speaks of the values that formed so many champions. The former player’s book, on the other hand, is the story of the destruction of these ties. There is a point of inflection. It occurred in 2010, when Forja was presented to the public. Arantxa did not attend: “the time had come to take off our masks and show that the myth of a united and happy Sánchez Vicario family was just that: a myth,” she writes. “My parents’ behavior has caused me a lot of suffering. In recent months, I have been through such difficult situations that there are still moments when I think I’m in a nightmare. What’s certain is that my relationship with my family doesn’t exist. How is it possible that everything I’ve obtained has disappeared, has ceased to be? (…) I’m the victim and the deceived.”

Dinero and discipline caused the rupture. “They’ve left me with nothing. I’m in debt to the Housing Department (she was condemned to pay €3.5 million in fines for paying taxes to Andorra while living in Spain), and my properties are very inferior to those of my brother Javier, for example, who has won much less than me over the course of his life. Could I accept this abuse and keep quiet? I wasn’t going to do it,” said the ex-tenista, who is 40. According to the WTA, which manages professional women’s tennis, Sánchez Vicario won about $17 million (some €12 million) during her career. The sponsorships she had during that time elevated her income to some €45 million by her count. Sources knowledgeable of the tennis world and her family are surprised by the insinuation of bankruptcy (“She has a boat, houses…”) and the elevated figure of her winnings: there are high taxes on tournament prizes (up to 35%), and Arantxa did not enjoy a large advertisement contract outside the tennis world (“like Sharapova’s style brands.”)

“My father has enjoyed full decision-making power over the management of my assets,” she said. “He has made the investments he considered opportune and administrated all my winnings. They gave me a certain amount of money every month, and I gave them a precise account statement; never for a moment did I worry enough to ask them about anything. I never doubted the way my father managed my money. Now I have nothing left,” she adds. “What happened with Housing was fatal. Establishing my residency in Andorra was my camp’s [their] decision.”

Arantxa, according to the book, which her parents’ lawyers are studying, was a girl who robbed a motorcycle to escape the tennis academy in which she was training. An adolescent whose her parents wanted her to go to bed early and leave her own birthday party. A champion weighed down by her “faithful shadow”, her mother – “for her, discipline and victory went before anything else, when sometimes what I needed most were caring words…I ended up doubting my self-worth and looking for help from psychologists to recover my self-esteem.” A tennis player who saw that her family managed everything in her life while her brother Emilio could make his own decisions from the age of 18. And a coach, finally, who yesterday only wanted to say of the Federation Cup, “I’m here because the players want me to be.”

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