Long before Rafael Nadal set out to bring a world-class tennis complex to Manacor, Spain, there was already a sporting facility that bore his last name: the Polide portivo Miguel Angel Nadal. Named after his uncle, a former FC Barcelona and Spanish National Team soccer player, it is an ode to the town’s once-most famous athlete.
The Nadal name has a history in Manacor, a small municipality of roughly 44,000 people on the island of Mallorca that has stood in place since the 14th century, famous for its pearl factory and wooden furniture industry. Now, it’s an international tennis destination that’s better known as the birthplace of a tennis legend.
Many top players end up relocating as their tennis careers—and bank accounts—outgrow their humble hometowns, in favor of financially beneficial places like Monte Carlo or Dubai, or tennis enclaves like South Florida or Barcelona for year-round training opportunities. Nadal has had plenty of chances to do the same.
But 21 Grand Slam singles titles and more than $128 million in prize money later, the 35-year-old does more than just call Manacor home: he has transformed it into the home base of his ever-growing business empire.
Many have doubted Rafael Nadal’s longevity over the years, but now in his mid-30s, he’s still as tough an out as there is. But even when Rafa steps away from the court, the enterprising Spaniard will remain a force in the sport.
Pondering his legacy
Nadal announced his ambitious plans to build an international tennis school in his hometown back in 2011, with the goal of making Manacor a benchmark for the rest of the sports world. But it wasn’t until a year later when, with a bit of help from the city council, the project kicked into high gear.
The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. As Nadal planned for life after tennis and pondered his legacy, the idea of his possible retirement suddenly seemed more immediate than ever before. Persistent tendinitis in Nadal’s knees had flared up again, abruptly derailing the world No. 2’s 2012 season. From the dizzying heights of winning his seventh Roland Garros title—surpassing the record held by Bjorn Borg—he crashed back to earth after being upset in the second round of Wimbledon by Lukas Rosol. Nadal was forced to withdraw from the London Olympics, and then shut down his season after the tendinitis was diagnosed as a torn patellar tendon. He didn’t compete again until February 2013.
While Nadal himself was firm that he had no plans to retire, he admitted that his days were numbered as injuries took their toll.
“I don’t know how long I will keep playing tennis,” he said at the time. “I’ll be 31 in five years and taking into account the fact that I started at 16… Perhaps stopping now will help extend my career a little bit more.
“Until I had the problems with the knee again, the final at Roland Garros, had been one of the best seasons of my life. I felt able to win any competition. Complicated times came later.”