Lynn Barber was obviously not crazy about Rafa Nadal. Her article was the fruit of an uninspired interview; she noted each and every scripted answer he gave her. Canned answers are worth their weight in gold for celebrity athletes. It’s the only way they’d maintain that squeaky-clean, wholesome, muscular boy-next-door image and ensure millions of dollars worth of endorsements on top of their already substantial game earnings.
It’s not as if Rafa and his manager tried to be subtle. They conferred like secretive hens every time Lynn asked a question a tad less boring than “What’s your favorite color?” Only a a short portion was devoted to his tennis career but there’s a lengthy commentary about his incessant underwear fiddling and how his Armani briefs cause a wedgie every five seconds. She also didn’t call him gay, but I chortled with how she beat around the bush for 10 paragraphs and suddenly threw a Freddie Mercury comparison out there. I wouldn’t give a flaming ***k if he was a hermaphrodite, but I thought this segment of the interview sounded strange.
Right. Which brings me to the subject of The Girlfriend. Her existence was unveiled to the world by Uncle Toni in 2008 (though unveiled is perhaps not the word) when he said Rafa had a childhood sweetheart back home in Majorca called Maria Francisca Perello, or Xisca for short. Nadal was quoted as saying: “She is perfect for me, because she is very relaxed and easy-going and I’ve known her for a long, long time. Our families have been friends for many years.”
Hardly the language of passion, you’ll agree, but at least from then on he had an official girlfriend, which made up for the fact that his sleeveless tops and bulging biceps reminded one inexorably of Freddie Mercury. But The Girlfriend remains a distant presence, never actually around.
She sometimes makes an appearance at his finals, among his family, but even long-time tennis insiders have never met her. Nadal says he sees her whenever he goes back to Majorca, but for a young man in peak physical condition, it doesn’t suggest the height of sexual fulfilment.
Anyway, I asked if he was going to marry The Girlfriend and he said flatly, No.
Rafa: “Not now, no. I don’t have any plans in that way.”
Me: “Do you mean you’ve split up?”
Rafa: “No. I don’t talk about the girlfriend in public, but I have the same girlfriend since many years.”
Me: “When do you meet?”
Rafa: “Her house is very close to my house, so when I am in Majorca I see her, and when she has holidays sometimes she comes to the tournaments, but she cannot follow the tour around because she has to do her work. [She works for a big insurance company.] She has her life and I have my life.”
Me: “Do you think she’ll wait for you? To get married when you finish tennis?”
Rafa: “I didn’t ask her to.”
Me: “But if you only see her — what? — 30 days a year, it can’t be a very fulfilling relationship?”
Nadal, for the first time in our interview, turns his full attention on me, a laser stare, and for a second I can imagine what it must be like to stand on the baseline waiting to receive his serve.
“But do you care about my relationship?”
Well, no, I have to admit, as the ace whizzes past me, of course I don’t give a toss about his relationship, I’m just trying to interview him. Somehow this breaks the tension, and we both laugh.
Rafa: “I understand your point, but I never talk about my girlfriend. I have a fantastic relationship with her, we understand each other. It is not a problem for her if I travel every week, and for me not a problem if, when I am in Majorca, she has to work all day.”
Me: “Do you talk on the phone though?”
Rafa: “No. When I am in a tournament I have to concentrate. Sure, I talk every day with her.”
Me: “I’m confused now.”
Rafa: “Forget about my girlfriend.”
Me: “Do you call your mother every day?”
Rafa: “Yes. My mother, my sister, my father, everybody.”
I am confused.
I can only record that there was a big difference in the enthusiasm with which he said he phoned his mother and sister every day, and whatever he was saying, or not saying, about his girlfriend. I’ll be pretty amazed if he ever marries her, though.
I don’t even know The Girlfriend but I already feel bad for her. By channeling Boy Abunda’s powers of chismis, I therefore conclude that one of the following is true:
- Rafa is secretly gay and uses The Girlfriend as a beard. If so… poor Rafa! This is the fault of your manager and PR consultants. Your loyal fans would still love you even if you reveal a secret umbrella fetish. This wouldn’t be so bad if The Girlfriend is paid for each public appearance.
- Rafa and The Girlfriend have an open relationship. Thirty days of togetherness a year is pretty bad. Chris and I may be able to endure more than a year apart but that’s only because of epic skype calls and daily communication. He doesn’t even call her everyday. So unless he’s celibate for the remaining 335 days, then she probably doesn’t mind him sleeping with other girls as long as he comes home to her. (There are shades of Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces here.)
- Rafa really is celibate 335 days a year! Maybe — like Lady Gaga who’s terrified that sex will suck out her talent through her lady parts — Rafa might be afraid that his intensity on the court will be lost through frequent, er, bedroom activities. Just like how monks reach Nirvana through fasting and abstinence, Rafa can only achieve game dominance if he refrains from cavorting with the lovelies.
So, what’s your favorite theory?