Nothing brings people together like tennis. Just as the nation unites to watch Wimbledon, the whole family can come together to play tennis – all year round, wherever they are in the world – on a tennis holiday.
The first time I picked up a racket I was on holiday in Marbella, aged nine. Since then, I have travelled the world to play tennis, both professionally and as a fun family activity.
Unlike, say, golf, tennis is a sport suited to family holidays – members from every generation are able to play together in mix and match doubles, mostly on a level playing field (unless one of you happens to be a professional).
I remember one of our first family holidays in Portugal, staying in Quinta do Lago with my husband, Mel, and Amber, 9, Charlie, 7, and Lily, 5, where we enjoyed tennis coaching every morning, and relaxed on the beach in the afternoon. As a family, we often mix and match with other families to keep the play even – it’s a great way to meet people.
On holiday, tennis can help shape the focus of each day. You can wake up early for a few games before heading to the beach, or you can spend your day exploring and head back to the court for some evening rallies. The truly dedicated can hit the court all day and even train with top coaches. Tennis is always fun, always interesting, and never fails to put a smile on everyone’s face.
With Wimbledon 2017 underway, interest in tennis is picking up, so now might be the ideal time to plan a tennis break of your own. There are many destinations you can visit to keep the tennis fever alive when Wimbledon’s over. Including two of my own, these are my top 10.
A stunning resort in a stunning location, with five-star facilities and several high-end restaurants. My favourite place to eat is El Mirador, which has a wonderful outside eating area, fantastic paella and panoramic ocean views. It’s a great place for winter sun. The tennis club is one of my own academies so, of course, it offers nothing but the best for training and casual playing. ritzcarlton.com
Curtain Bluff is a small, unique resort with a lot of local charm. The clientele love it so much that some of them have been going back every year for 30 years. The tennis academy has a charity that offers local children free tennis lessons, which helps many of them get scholarships in the US. In addition to tennis, there is a yoga deck that faces the water, and a Jacuzzi among the rocks of the Caribbean Sea. curtainbluff.com
I’ve taken all three of my children to Portugal many times, so it really is a place for all ages. Quinta do Lago has a tennis academy run by Jim Stewart, a legendary coach. I know him from the tour days: the tiny three-court facility has real heart and soul. It’s best to rent a villa and head to the club bar after a great social game. There’s a strong sense of community and everyone there knows Jim. playtennisalgarve.com
This is my other overseas academy, and again I’ve done all I can to ensure a top tennis experience. It’s bigger than Jim Stewart’s academy but just as charming. There’s a new spa with 12 treatment rooms and, in the evening, Pine Cliffs is one of the best places in the world to have a glass of champagne and watch the sun set among the cliffs. Tennis in the morning, spa in the afternoon and champagne in the evening. What more could you want? pinecliffs.com
Emilio Sánchez and Sergio Casal were two highly respected Spanish players, so this club near Barcelona is a great place for the truly dedicated to come and improve their craft. Visitors can stay on-facility and train for five hours a day. If you’re thinking of becoming a pro, a visit to Sanchez-Casal is a must. Andy Murray trained here aged 14, and I did a coaching course that taught me new things after all these years. sanchez-casal.com
Known to some as The Tennis Resort, Saddlebrook is massive. I trained there at 16, and it was so hot and humid that I had to carry around a bucket-sized supply of water because you lose half your body weight in sweat on the court. It’s a great place for tennis fanatics – you could end up on the court next to active pros. I trained with Andrea Jaeger while Vitas Gerulaitis trained on the court next to us. saddlebrook.com
Clark Francis has academies all over the Middle East, but it’s his Dubai resort that I know and love. Jon Guntley, a fantastic coach, works there – I call him the Pied Piper of tennis because of how great he is at training younger players. It’s best to go here during the Dubai Tennis Championships so you can book tickets to watch the likes of Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the evening, and play tennis yourself during the day. cftennisacademy.com
Marbella is where I first picked up a tennis racket, so playing here is always very special. I haven’t been to Puente Romano in years but whenever I do it’s great. There are some brilliant teaching pros there and excellent clay courts – perfect for ironing out the flaws in your playing style. It’s an academy known to the likes of Djokovic and, aside from the tennis, there are great restaurants including the two-star Michelin Dani Garcia. puenteromano.com
Patrick Mouratoglou is one of the most renowned tennis coaches in the world – he’s coached many great players, and he currently coaches one of the all-time greats: Serena Williams. His academy offers 20-40 hour a week programmes, and more than 20 indoor and outdoor courts. It offers an intense experience, but since it’s in the surroundings of Nice and Antibes, there is something for everyone. My husband and I enjoy Antibes, where there is a magnificent harbour and some great restaurants to explore. mouratoglou.com
Nadal’s academy was opened by long-time rival Federer, showing the world the great relationship that these two players have. The giant training complex and resort is Nadal’s way of giving back to the community when he’s finished his professional career. A truly extraordinary place – with 26 courts, indoor and outdoor pools, and a fitness centre – Nadal’s academy offers everything from mental training to nutrition, for juniors and adults alike, coming from amazing coaches. The academy is located on the outskirts of Manacor, and the nearest coastal resort is Porto Cristo. rafanadalacademy.com