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Arantxa's Life in Word and Image


The Early Years (1971-1984)


arantxa age 10

The story is told that Arantxa owes her very existence to "El Diablo," a roller coaster at the famous amusement park in Barcelona. It seems her mother was told she could have no more children, but after riding on El Diablo, Marisa miraculously conceived her fourth child. Feeling this conception was indeed a gift from heaven, Emilio amd Marissa chose to name their miracle child after the Basque saint of Aranzazu. But, as such a long name seemed bursonsome to such a tiny tyke, they simply nicknamed her 'Arantxa'. 

From her earliest moments, tennis surrounded Arantxa. When her family moved to Barcelona shortly after the birth of their third child, Javier, they had joined the local tennis club, mostly as a social outlet. But both Arantxa's parents enjoy sports a great deal and encouraged their children to follow their lead. Oldest daughter Marisa was soon joining her parents on the courts and then into junior tennis competitions; Emilio and Javier did the same.

marisa 1982

emilio 1991

javier 1987

[Marisa at a tournament in 1982; Emilio winning his first trophy in 1981; Javier as a junior in 1986]

According to an article written in 1989, Arantxa was at first not so sure she wanted to do as all her siblings (she showed that "willful" stubborn independence that she still possesses at a very early age.) She initially thought she might like to break the gender barrier in soccer (some of her feminist leanings also cam through early on as well).


((get quotation from Sports Ill article))

However the lure of the court and apparent joy her sibs were experiencing was just too great, and not wanting to be left out, she soon joined the rest of the family. Her first racquet, a cast-off Slazenger, acquired when she was but four years old, replaced Arantxa's need for dolls and other toys. She and her "best friend" Slazie (as she called it) played many challenging matches against their archnemesis "The Wall." But, as Arantxa is quick to point out, she and Slazie always won! The story is told, perhaps apocryphally, that Arantxa carried her "best friend" everywhere with her; it had its own chair at the dinner table, it slept in her bed, she was never without it!

arantxa in her tennis dress

At age seven, a new friend entered into the Arantxa/Slazie duo -- her now-trademark ball-holder. Wanting to keep as many "lucky" balls near her as possible (and those "unlucky" balls from being used again by her opponents), she used to put extra balls in shorts' pockets or under her skirt. But the ball-holder idea seemed less cumbersome and appealed to her right off. She is rarely without it now (the one exception is when she attires herself in a tennis dress, as pictured at right)

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[photos this page from El Forgea de Campaones @ 1990, La Familia Sanchez]