The stars are stringing their rackets, the champagne is on ice, and the strawberries are being lashed with cream, which can only mean one thing – Wimbledon is just around the corner.
As tennis fever hits the nation where better to get in a bit of pre-season practice than the official oversees training base of the Lawn Tennis Association? British number ones, Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta are regular visitors, so I’m in very good hands – or should that be courts?
La Manga Club is situated in the Murcia Region of South East Spain, just 20 minutes drive from Murcia-San Javier airport or an hour from Alicante. Boasting more than 300 days of sunshine a year, not to mention top-notch professional training facilities, it’s hardly surprising it’s classed as one of the best sports and leisure destinations in the world; and it has the celebrity clientele to match. The guest list reads like a who’s who of sports and showbiz greats – with everyone from Sean Connery to Sir Cliff Richard, Matt Damon to David Beckham jetting over for a bit of active R&R. Sounds pretty ace already.
Spanning an area three times the size of Monaco, the resort oozes as much luxury and ‘je ne sais quoi’ as the French principality. Situated in rolling hillside, dotted with lemon groves, pines and thousands of palm trees, it’s fringed by the Calblanque National Park, and overlooks the crystal clear waters of the Mar Menor Lagoon and the Mediterranean Sea. There’s very little to (double) fault about the location.
La Manga Club is home to eight full-size football pitches, explaining its popularity as a pre-season training pad for Real Madrid
So what about the facilities? As well as three, 18-hole championship golf courses, La Manga Club is home to eight full-size football pitches (explains its popularity as a pre-season training pad for world famous teams like Liverpool FC and Real Madrid), a cricket centre, rugby and netball facilities, bowling green, bike hire, and countless walking/jogging trails. And, of course, the piece de resistance – one of Europe’s finest tennis centres, housing 28 multi-surface courts, and a former bullring which is now a rather impressive centre court with seating for up to 1,200 spectators. This place literally eats, sleeps and breathes sport.
Speaking of sleeping, we’re staying at the very heart of La Manga Club, in the five-star Principe Felipe Hotel. If you’re travelling with family, or just fancy a little more space and independence, Las Lomas Village also offers four-star self-catering apartments and townhouses with spectacular panoramic views of the complex. And you won’t miss out on any of the hotel comforts, either, as breakfast and 24-hour room service is included. You can even take advantage of the free resort shuttle bus, and Junior Club to look after the little ones while you enjoy a well-earned break by the pool, or tie-break on the tennis court. Or how about signing the kids up to one of the many children’s academies on site – from rugby and cricket, to the Chelsea FC Foundation Soccer School?
If you want to be slap-bang in the middle of the action, though, you can’t get much closer than a hotel balcony that looks out over the 18th hole of the North golf course. Our room is light and airy, with an enormous bed, elegant decor, a pillow menu as
long as my arm and a marble bath almost big enough to swim in (complete with candles and matches I hasten to add!). It’s already 40-love to Principe Felipe, but it really has it in the bag when it comes to the turn-down service, which includes a daily positive quote as well as the obligatory bite-size chocolates. Apparently “The best dreams come true when you awake.” Which is good news, because tomorrow is our first day on the courts. I can’t wait.
La Manga's Sports Facilities
La Manga Club Tennis Centre has hosted a plethora of prestigious tournaments, from the Davis Cup to the ATP, so I’ll be playing on the same turf (well, clay actually, although there’s also hard and artificial grass courts available) as some great tennis legends. No pressure, then. Luckily, the adult tennis academy has coaching to suit all ages and abilities, from tactical and match-play academies to private lessons, not forgetting weekly organised tournaments and social activities.
Our coach, James, once ranked in the top 1,000 in the world and he definitely has the fancy footwork to prove it. More importantly, he’s quick to de-deuce the rather broad range of playing levels in our group, and effortlessly tailors the class so we all get a good run-around and feel like we’ve made progress – albeit some rather hot and sweaty steps forward. He tells us the ball bounces slow, high and inconsistently on clay courts so it’s a really good learning surface. And he’s not wrong. Over three days we cover everything from grip to stance, forehand to backhand, singles to doubles, serves to volleys, technique to tempo. I’ve definitely come away with plenty of hints and tips to up my game, but best of all, there’s smiles all round – down the line, crosscourt and everywhere in between.
Over three days we cover everything from grip to stance, forehand to backhand, singles to doubles, serves to volleys, technique to tempo
Time for some new balls please. Actually make that a new body, or the next best thing – La Manga Club’s Wellness Centre. I think I’ll give the fitness suite and studio classes a miss and skip straight to the water zone with its heated pools, steam bath, sauna, jacuzzis, hyrdromassage beds, water jets and therapeutic showers. I might even treat myself to something indulgent off the spa menu – a massage to soothe those aching muscles maybe? Or a revitalising facial perhaps?
Of course, the other way to relax and recharge is at one of La Manga Club’s 20 plus bars and restaurants. From Asian to American, Indian to Italian, Seafood to Tapas they serve (no pun intended – for once) a tantalising choice of cuisines, from light bites to multiple-course fine dining. La Cala cliff-top restaurant is my personal favourite – what better way to end a day smashing it up on the courts than sipping a cold glass of vino blanco, and tucking into some freshly caught fish as you watch the sunset on the Med. That’s definitely game, set and match to La Manga Club.
Stay and play tennis packages start from €1,680 for a family of four including seven nights accommodation and tennis academy for two adults. Check it out here.