Bold play and smooth moves make Sanchez an awesome ladies’ man. Of course his tennis is pretty good too. The Spaniard has ranked among the world’s Top 20 since 1986, but it’s the smile more than the swing that makes him such a coveted mixed-doubles partner. “All the girls back home think he’s cute and want to meet him,” says kid sister Arantxa, 20, herself the No. 5 woman player in the world. “If he wasn’t my brother, I’d be interested in him too.”
Emilio, 26, downplays “physical beauty, which can start something—but that impact fades, like a frame in a movie. I have to like the whole movie, not just one frame. In Spain we have an expression: When the river sounds, water comes. If people say you have nice eyes, everyone thinks you have nice eyes. I think I got nicer looking once I became famous. Someone with the same face and body who isn’t famous would not get noticed.”
Sanchez has been getting noticed since he picked up a racket at age 9, after his parents made tennis the family sport. (Brother Javier, 24, is ranked 34th in the world.) Emilio turned pro in 1984 and teamed with two different partners to win French Open doubles titles in 1988 and 1990. Considered one of his country’s most eligible bachelors, he’s “in love” with a Barcelonan but still far from match point. Citing the grind of the tour as a factor, Sanchez says, “I’m not in a hurry to marry. Like a lot of Spaniards, I’m formal—but I have my own ways also.” Outstanding singles players usually do.