Maria Francisca Perelló, known in the media for years by the nickname Xisca, is married to tennis star Rafael Nadal. Nadal, as of this writing, is ranked #2 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals.
The couple has been together since their teenage years. They started dating in 2005 and tied the knot in 2019. Both grew up on the island of Majorca, Spain, in the Mediterranean.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Perelló Says No One Calls Her ‘Xisca’
Perelló has been called “Xisca” by reporters for several years. But she recently clarified that no one in her family calls her by that nickname. She explained to the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that she prefers to be called “Mery.”
Perelló’s first trip to the Australian Open was in 2017. During an on-court interview with Nadal, the sports reporter pointed out that Perelló was in the stands for the first time and referred to her as Xisca. Nadal, using a tennis term, joked about his girlfriend finally making the trip: “After 10 years, finally my girlfriend gets a wildcard to come here.”
Two years later, Perelló was shown in the stands again during the same tournament but the reporter may have received a heads up about her nickname. This time, he called Nadal’s girlfriend by her given name, Maria. Nadal commented during that interview that after 14 years together, his girlfriend no longer needed a “wild card” entry to visit Australia. “She coming wherever she wants, that’s how it works.”
2. Perelló Met Nadal Through His Sister & They Kept Their Relationship a Secret From Nadal’s Fans For Three Years
According to La Vanguardia, Perelló met Nadal’s younger sister, Maribel, before meeting her future husband. The two women attended school together as teenagers and as adults, often sit next to each other in the stands at Nadal’s tennis matches.
Perelló and Nadal started dating in 2005. She was 17 at the time and he was about 19. But they managed to keep their relationship out of the public eye for three years. They were photographed together spending time on a beach in their hometown of Manacor, Majorca, in 2008.
Nadal’s uncle and trainer, Toni Nadal, was quoted by the Daily Mail at the time, “My nephew always maintained he was single. It was a well-kept secret but actually his girlfriend is waiting for him in Majorca.” The outlet added that even many locals had been unaware Nadal was in a serious relationship.
3. Perelló Has a Business Degree & Works at Nadal’s Charitable Foundation
Perelló chose to stay in Majorca for college. She earned a business degree from the University of the Balearic Islands, located in the island’s capital city of Palma. After college, she spent some time working in sports marketing in London, England, La Vanguardia reported.
Perelló’s cousin, Maria Perello Limones, described her to the Daily Mail in 2008 as an intelligent young woman with a good head on her shoulders. “You won’t see her rolling out of a nightclub or laden down with designer bags after a shopping spree,” Limones said. “She is a straightforward, no-nonsense girl not interested in glamour and fame.”
These days, Perelló is an entegral part of the family business. She is a project director for the Rafa Nadal Foundation, which Nadal lauched in 2008 alongside his mother, Ana María Parera. According to the foundation’s website, Perelló currently serves as the Director of Strategy and Relations with Institutions.
4. Nadal & Perelló Were Married at a Spanish Fortress & the Guests Included the Former King of Spain
The wedding took place at La Fortaleza, a villa overlooking the sea on Majorca, Business Insider reported, in October 2019. They invited about 350 guests, which included the former King od Spain, Juan Carlos I. Despite the large guest list, the celebration was still a private one, as the newlyweds banned phones. One person who could not attend
Perelló and Nadal have not yet started a family but the tennis champ has expressed a desire to do so once he retires from the sport. He explained in early 2019 that he didn’t feel it was “ideal” to have children while he was busy traveling around the world. “I would love to have children, boys, girls. I’m a person who loves kids and I’m a family guy. But also I tell you that the reality is the years keep passing. I would like to start to do all of this when my sporting life determines it.”
5. Perelló Doesn’t Attend All of Nadal’s Matches In Part Because She Doesn’t Want to Distract Him
Perelló has been in the stands to cheer on Nadal at major tournaments. But she has not been a constant presence and that is intentional. Perelló has said she didn’t want to distract Nadal as he focuses on winning. She also explained to The Telegraph in 2011 that following Nadal around all of the time would be exhausting for her:
He needs his space when he is competing, and just the idea of me hanging around waiting on his needs all day wears me out. It would asphyxiate me. And then he would have to be worrying about me … No. If I followed him everywhere, I think there’s a risk we might stop getting along.
Perelló also remarked in May 2020 to Essentially Sports that she prefers to stay out of the limelight because, unlike her husband, she did not choose fame. “I’ve always been very clear that I’m not the famous one. If I am it will backfire. The one who has done something to deserve it is Rafa, not me.”