Penny McCormick serves up some holiday suggestions for tennis devotees
A tennis ball hitting a taut racquet and the thrum of a rally are some of my all-time favourite sounds. I spent my teenage years at various summer tennis camps trying my best to replicate Bjorn Borg’s double-handed backhand and Chris Evert’s effortless baseline style (both sartorial and top spin). I had varying degrees of success at both.
In my early 20s, I continued to seek out tennis-oriented holidays. Having been a fan of Spanish player Emilio Sanchez, I memorably booked in at the academy he set up, with his sister Arantxa, in Barcelona (www.emiliosandchezacademy.com) for what I thought was the perfect mix of social tennis, Spanish lessons and sampling tapas. By sundown on the second day I was nursing a series of blisters: the coaches had mistakenly assumed I was a tennis pro and put me through a punishing workout from which I struggled to recover.
With a fellow tennis-obsessed friend, I also booked a series of (gentler) Club Med holidays where the tennis coaching is outstanding. I’ve stayed at the Club Meds in Mauritius, Majorca and Corfu and love the cosmopolitan mix of guests (there are very few English speakers), as well as the standard and range of activities on offer. There are free tennis lessons for every level at the Clubs with the possibility to book private lessons at an extra cost on top of the group lessons (www.clubmed.co.uk).
The highlight of one of these trips was meeting a future boyfriend on the tennis court. After we got together (long story), we would seek out hotels with tennis courts when we went on holiday; there’s nothing better than hitting a ball in the morning or evening to release some endorphins. In the process, we tested quite a few clay and all weather courts from Marbella to Maputo (a useful guide is Lux Private Coaching – an interesting network of gorgeous hotels offering top tennis facilities and coaches www.luxtennis.com). While I haven’t been to the following hotels, or tested their tennis courts, they’re on my list of must-visits…
Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre, Sani Resort, Greece
Launched in 2019, the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre at Sani Resort comprises eight clay tennis courts, a club house and an outdoor lounge, and offers personalised tennis programmes for all levels and age groups. The programmes focus on teaching Nadal’s preparation techniques as well as elements of his mental training. For those with a competitive streak, there are tennis tournaments running throughout the season.
From July 1-5, players have the opportunity to receive expert advice and guidance from Toni Nadal (Rafa’s elder brother and current coach of Félix Auger-Aliassime) as he spends his time at the Centre. From August 7 – 15, Rafa’s own coach, Carlos Moyá, will be in residence and will share skills and tips as well as playing in a special exhibition match. A five-day course at the RNTC starts from €250 per person.
But where to stay? The RNTC is just one of the facilities at the mighty Sani Resort – a group of five hotels including Sani Beach, Sani Club, Porto Sani, Sani Asterias and Sani Dunes. Located on the Kasandra peninsula in Halkidiki, (80km from Thessaloniki airport), Sani is surrounded by pine forests and beautiful beaches. Other facilities include a private marina, the Chelsea FC Foundation and the Bear Grylls Survival Academy; www.sani-resort.com
The Campus, Quinta do Lago, Portugal
Quinta do Lago’s sports hub, The Campus, is widely regarded as one of best sporting destinations for training, recovery and rehabilitation. The Campus offers an plenty of sporting facilities and activities, including four acrylic tennis and padel courts. The latter are equipped with the latest carpet technology, special shock-pad features and court floodlights. Tennis and padel coaches are available, providing tailored coaching programmes for all skillsets and ages, and there are several weekly tennis and padel tournaments arranged. A Junior Tennis Academy also takes place at The Campus which is available for ages of four to 18.
Affordable and stylish, The Magnolia Hotel is just moments away from The Campus. With 74 guest rooms, three suites and seven new cottages, a standard double room is €120 per night on a bed and breakfast basis, while the cottages are €216 per night; www.themagnoliahotelgdl.com
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, France
Hidden away at the southernmost tip of the Cap d’Antibes, this posh hotel provides equal amounts of celeb-spotting and covert tennis practice. Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc has played host to the great and the good from F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor. Recent visitors this summer have included the Clooneys and their friends Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, while the UK Vogue team popped up to celebrate a special exhibition “Vogue X Snapchat : Redefining The Body”.
Ergo, appearing on one of the hotel’s five clay courts in mismatching tennis gear is not advised, though the courts are helpfully surrounded by Aleppo pines, palms and olive trees and are next to the historic rose garden. A team of coaches is available for private lessons. Rates start from €680 per night in a Classic Room on a bed and breakfast basis; www.oetkercollection.com
Domaine des Etangs, Massignac, France
If you’ve played on lots of different surfaces and want to try a “floating court” this is the place to come. Guests will find a tennis court on one of the many ponds and lakes set within the 2,500-acre estate. Overlooked by the a 13th-century chateau, as well as a tiny private chapel perched on the edge of the pond, after a game, this is the perfect place to do some birdwatching and spot the many species that live in the nearby forests and fields. Guests can enjoy a match of tennis alone or have the option to improve their game with daily sessions with the Domaine des Etangs’ instructor. The property also includes six farmhouse cottages, two swimming pools, an art gallery, three libraries and a fine-dining restaurant. Rates for private tennis lessons on the floating tennis court start from €60 per hour, while room rates are from €400 per night on a bed and breakfast basis; www.domainedesetangs.com
Fota Island Resort, Cork
Whether you enjoy playing for fun or are a competitive enthusiast, The Munster Tennis Hub at Fota Island Resort allows guests to improve their game, boost their fitness levels and meet others who enjoy the sport. Guests at the resort have complimentary access to the Astroturf courts, which are available to hire on an hourly basis by non-residents. Coaching is available on an individual or group basis by official coaches of Munster Tennis.
Tennis is just one of the activities available at the resort. For families who love a challenge, Fota’s two-hour adventure course includes target archery and an obstacle course, while kayaking and stand up paddle boarding is also on site in addition to walking routes, fairy trails and the resort’s championship golf courses. A three-night family holiday in one of the resort’s self-catering two-bedroom lodges for two adults and two children starts from €820; a family room in the hotel starts from €1,182 for a three-night stay; www.fotaisland.ie
The Grove, Hertfordshire, UK
Based in the Hertfordshire countryside, this impressive country estate has two top notch all-weather tennis courts, set within stunning walled gardens. This summer, tennis professional Ryan (from Lux Private Coaching) will be in residence until September, providing a chance for avid tennis-players to improve their skills. Ryan has previously trained alongside players such as Aljaz Bedene, Kyle Edmund, and Tim Henman. Nightly rates at The Grove start from £370 for a classic room, on a room-only basis; www.thegrove.co.uk
Hillside Beach Club, Turkey
I’ve stayed in Fethiye before (it’s completely different to the bedlam of Bodrum) and close by is this luxury hideaway in Kalemya Bay, known for its “Feel Good” ethos. The resort includes three stunning beaches, two spas, three restaurants and six lively bars. For those looking for a game of tennis, the resort has an on-site tennis court and club. Guests can also take part in swimming, hiking, biking, and climbing. Rates at Hillside Beach Club start from £192stg based on two people sharing a standard room on a full board basis; www.hillsidebeachclub.com
The Park Hotel Kenmare, Co Kerry
As a Kenmare convert, I definitely recommend a stay at this historic hotel which dates to 1897. Guests can choose to be as active or as relaxed as they wish: there is no shortage of sporting and wellness facilities. On site is the fabulous SAMAS Destination Spa, a gym and sauna, a 25m lap pool and an 18-hole golf course adjacent to the hotel. Falconry, cycling and croquet are also on offer. For tennis fans, the hotel can provide racquets and balls for use on the hotel court. Currently on offer is a two-night break which includes accommodation, breakfast and a seven-course signature tasting menu experience on one evening. From €425 per person sharing per night; www.secure.irelands-blue-book.ie
The K Club, Co Kildare
Expert tuition from The K Club’s tennis pro is available for €50 per person for a one hour lesson, while access to the tennis courts is complimentary for all hotel guests, with rackets and tennis balls available from K Lodge just beside the tennis courts. Combine some tennis practice with a stay in one of the self-catering options on the estate. Palmer Lodge and Straffan Gate Lodge are two original gate lodges which have been completely restored and refurbished recently in a contemporary style. The four-bedroom Palmer Lodge is available from €1,000 per night with a minimum three-night stay, while The Straffan Gate Lodge is available for €900 per night, with a minimum three night stay, it offers a maximum occupancy for six. Guests staying in either lodges have full access to The K Club’s selection of bars and restaurants including the stylish all-day dining venue, The Palmer, the elegant Barton Restaurant and South: the casual and cool restaurant and bar with an expansive terrace overlooking the Palmer South course at the resort; www.kclub.ie
Ballymaloe House, Co Cork
It goes without saying that guests of the family-run foodie destination Ballymaloe House might want to work up an appetite or burn off some calories during a stay. Happily, there’s a tennis court, beside the heated swimming pool, which is accessible for all guests with racquets and balls provided. Channel your inner Anna Wintour with a game before breakfast. Currently on offer is an overnight stay with afternoon tea on check in, a five-course evening meal and breakfast the following morning. From €485; www.secure.irelands-blue-book.ie