It makes for uncomfortable reading when one of our own falls foul of the law, but tennis players are human beings after all, and not perfect and must pay the price for their transgressions, as former Grand Slam champion has discovered as she is dealt a 2-year suspended jail sentence for fraud by the Catalan High Court in Barcelona on Wednesday.
The 52-year old Former World No 1 and 4-time Grand Slam winner and her ex-husband Josep Santacana were also ordered to pay €6.6 million to the Bank of Luxembourg.
She is not the first made to pay the price.
Boris Becker, a 3-times Wimbledon men’s singles champion, served 8 months of his two-and-a-half-year sentence for hiding £2.5m of assets and loans in a UK bankruptcy fraud case. He was released from prison in December 2022 and deported from the UK.
Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev and Thiago Seyboth Wild are facing domestic violence allegations in Germany and Brazil.
Back in Barcelona, Santacana, who managed Sanchez Vicario’s accounts, was given a longer sentence of 3 years and 3 months in prison, while 3 other defendants were sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison as well as being fined.
The Court stated that Sanchez Vicario had concealed assets to avoid paying the bank debt, and ruled that ‘[the defendant] had and always had sufficient assets to pay her debts and that she has prevented their recovery by acts of sale and evasion of seizure’.
Sanchez Vicario, who has faced several legal battles relating to tax evasion and fraud since 2009, divorced husband Santacana in 2019, and the judge gave her a shorter sentence because she had ‘assumed her responsibility for the facts’ and agreed to pay reparations.
Sanchez Vicario pinned the blame firmly on Santacana when speaking to the court in Barcelona last September.
“I did what he told me to do, because I am a tennis player, I have no knowledge of assets or companies or anything,” she stated. “I trusted my husband.”
The court believed that it was ‘absolutely credible’ that Sanchez Vicario ‘had no knowledge of asset management, nor probably any interest, and that he had always transferred the management of her assets to third parties’.
Santacana disputed this, and claimed her error was in not paying her taxes.
“I just expect the truth to be told and this to be over,” he said last September.
The judge refused to acquit Sanchez Vicario, though, because she ‘had full knowledge of what was being done with her assets and was enjoying it’, concluding that Santacana led the plan to avoid paying the debt.
The businessman has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, but along with Sanchez Vicario, the pair must now repay £5.7m, the total of their unpaid debt plus interest.
Sanchez Vicario won 3 French Open titles, the 1994 US Open and was World No 1 for 12 weeks in 1995. She was also a 2-time finalist at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
She came close to winning the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1995 and 1996, losing both finals to the Steffi Graf, to whom she also lost at the Australian Open final in 1994 before Mary Pierce inflicted another final defeat on her in Melbourne 12 months later.
In the doubles, Sanchez Vicario won the Australian Open in 1992, 1995 and 1996, the US Open in 1993 and 1994, and Wimbledon in 1995.
In the mixed doubles, she won the French Open in 1990 and 1992, the Australian Open in 1993, and the US Open in 2000.
Sanchez Vicario also helped Spain win the Billie Jean King Cup 5 times and picked up 4 Olympic medals across the singles and doubles, winning a silver and a bronze at the Barcelona Games in 1992 and repeating the feat in Atlanta 4 years later.