© Ella Ling


Burning through 60 million US dollars


Looking back, the second Saturday of the 1989 French Open, when Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Steffi Graf for La Coupe Suzanne, was the Financial Mismanagement Final.

Some years after that, Graf’s father Peter would go to prison for tax evasion, and now Sanchez-Vicario has alleged that her parents, who controlled her finances, “have left me with nothing”. In a new book, ‘Arantxa, Vamos! Memoirs of a struggle, a life and a woman’, the winner of four grand slam singles titlesĀ has disclosed that she owes money to the Spanish taxman (she did not pay taxes for several years when she said she was living in the tax haven of Andorra), and is “without resources”.

If you want to know how you can earn almost 60 million US dollars in your career, including almost 17 million US dollars in prize-money, and still be left with nothing, then read this book, the inside story of that familiar and sorry tale in tennis: the player who knows everything about cross-court backhands andĀ little about managing money. The problem, it would seem, is that her parents dominated her off-court life: they would give her an allowance to spend, and she had no real idea of the state of her finances.

“My parents made me suffer a lot. My parents left me with nothing and now I am indebted to the inland revenue and I will not be quiet. Today I am without resources,” said Sanchez-Vicario, who does not speak to anyone in her family, including her brothers Emilio and Javier, former players. In charge on the court, Sanchez-Vicario was dominated off it by her mother Marisa, her near-constant companion on the tour. “My mother decided on my hair and my clothes. When I bought something on my own, she rarely liked it.”

The other day, a Spanish website published a story which suggested that several companies linked to Rafael Nadal, Majorca’s world number two, had been registered in the Basque region to shelter them from higher tax on his image rights. Nadal’s agent confirmed the existence of the companies but said they had now been transferred to the Balearics, where he lives. “The companies mentioned and the tennis player hinself are up to date with the payment of all their tax obligations. Since the start of his career he has always wanted to maintain his residence in Spain and that’s the way it has been, reaffirming his commitment as a Spaniard on, as well as off, the court.”

Nadal’s father takes a lead role in his son’s business affairs. You can be sure of one thing: Rafa Nadal is never going to be left “without resources”.

I’m writing this before tonight’s Laureus Sports Awards, where Novak Djokovic has been short-listed for world sportsman of the year, Petra Kvitova is among the contenders for world sportswoman, and Kvitova and Li Na have been dominated for world breakthrough. Esther Vergeer, the wheelchair tennis player, is on the short list for world sportsperson of the year with a disability. Tennis has always done well at these awards, which like to think of themselves as the Oscars of sport. Federer has been been world sportsman four times, Rafael Nadal won the prize last year, Serena Williams has been world sportswoman a couple of times, and Justine Henin and Jennifer Capriati have also won that prize. Is there a case to be made that, over the past decade, tennis has produced more exceptional athletes than any other sport?