Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rafa Nadal and His Family

           Rafa Nadal is still Number One tennis player in the world today, despite his having lost to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open last January 26, 2014.  In the finals, he suffered from some back problem but medical tests in early February showed that he was recovering well and would be ready to play in events scheduled in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janiero, Indian Wells and Miami.  As John Carlin, his biographer, wrote in the Financial Times just before the Australian Open, he is the most grounded and understated of superstars.  His humility is admirable and can explain his never ending effort to improve.  Comparing himself to other superstars, he told Carlin:  "Take Tiger Woods.  I look at him playing a shot and I think he is going to nail it, because this guy is very good and he knows he is very good.  I look at Federer and Djokovic--the same.  But me, even though rationally I know they probably regard me in the same light, I really do have my doubts.  I'm about to start a new year, a new season and I have no idea whether I am going to win anything at all.  I know that when I arrive in Australia I'm going to feel that it's going to be very tough for me, very hard to win there.  Once the time comes and I am on court it’s different.  I am prepared to compete well and I know that in the moments of maximum pressure I'll respond the right way.  But never do I think I am going to go out and win because I am better than the other player.  I've never felt that."

          Where did Rafa get his admirable human qualities?  He himself gave the answer:  his very closely knit family, which reminds me of many Asian families.  The case of Rafa highlights the importance of the proper upbringing by parents of children.  Let us listen to his biographer: "An absence of complacency might be in his nature but it also has a lot to do with how he was brought up.  When Nadal dedicates a victory in a post-match speech to his family, thanks them as he invariably does for the impact that they have had on his triumphs, he speaks from the heart.  If there is one thing of which he is convinced, it is that he would not be where he is were it not for the influence of his remarkably close, traditionally patriarchal family clan.  For a while, and until quite recently, the entire Nadal family....lived in one block of flats overlooking the church in Manacor's central square.  Grandfather Nadal, a retired musician also called Rafael, occupied the ground floor with his wife.  Above him were his oldest son Sebastian, a successful businessman and Rafa's father, his wife Ana Maria Parera, who comes from a furniture manufacturing family.  Rafa himself and his younger sister Maribel.  Also in the building, which they wholly owned, were grandpa Rafael's three other sons and one daughter, all married, all with their spouses and offspring."

          There is no day when he does not speak to his mother, father and sister, no matter where in the world he is.  Quite often, they are actually in the bleachers cheering for him.  His coach, his uncle Toni, is the one who practices tough love to develop in him the virtues of humility and tenacity.  For example, if as a young boy Nadal forgot to bring a bottle of water along to a match on a hot day, no water was given to him.  Members of his family were always careful during his roaring teens to ensure fame never went to his head.  They mercilessly teased him at the slightest suggestion that he was becoming vain.  And as Carlin commented:  "An even deeper measure of how rooted he is that the idea of doing as other sorts of millionaires do of moving to Monaco, say, to avoid paying the Spanish taxman has never crossed his mind.  Not only does he remain, and will almost certainly remain all his life, in Mallorca, where he lives with his parents in a wing of a home he bought for them on the sea, 10 minutes' drive from where he was born.  Fame and wealth have not devoured the man."

          The admirable case of this superstar who can remain in the tennis firmament for years to come is another proof of the primordial role that the family plays in the greatness of individuals and of entire societies.  As in all sectors of society, the stability of the family is a guarantee to excellence and success.  Having just attended an international conference on how to make family enterprises sustainable, I am glad to present another example of the saying that the good of humanity passes through the family.  We have to do everything possible to protect the Filipino family against all the forces that tend to undermine its long-term stability.  For comments, my email address is