It took Rafael Nadal a total of 14 years to amass his record-breaking 11 French Open titles—and almost exactly the same amount of time for him to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Maria Francisca Perelló. According to a new report from Hola! Spain, Nadal and Perelló, who have been dating since 2005, are now engaged, and have been for several months. Though it’s unclear why the news is only breaking now, this week’s outpouring of congratulations and support will surely be a boon to Nadal, who lost to longtime rival Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.
The proposal reportedly happened while the pair were on a “romantic trip” to Rome in May 2018; indeed, that month, Nadal was in the Italian capital for the 2018 Rome Masters tournament, which he won. According to Hola!, Nadal and Perelló (who goes by both Mery and Xisca) are currently planning to marry sometime this fall, in a ceremony in Mallorca, Spain, where they were both raised.
Nadal has previously spoken about his desire to start a family with Perelló. “I would love to have children, boys, girls…I’m a person who loves kids and I’m a family guy,” he said on Argentine talk show Con Amigos Asi in 2017. “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. I think it’s also, above all, about looking after the kids,” he continued, noting that raising children while still a touring professional athlete didn’t seem “ideal.”
Perelló works at an insurance company and is listed as the projects director for the RafaNadal Foundation. In 2011, she spoke to The Telegraph about why she and Nadal have kept their relationship so private. “Even if my family asks me about Rafael, I prefer not to say much. The fact is that I just don’t feel comfortable talking about these things, even in private. It’s what works for me, and what works for Rafael and me as a couple. We wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.
Though Perelló can often be spotted sitting courtside at her fiancé’s matches, she rarely attends other events with Nadal, and told The Telegraph about her decision to skip one sponsored dinner in particular. “When Rafael got back he said, ‘Thank God you didn’t come.’ The place had been swarming with photographers. For me to have gone would have meant stepping into that celebrity world. It’s not a world I want to be part of, nor do I think Rafa would have chosen to be with a woman who looked for that in life.”