Spain has become a hot-bed of tennis activity. Spanish players like Rafael Nadal have become mega-stars. Major tournaments in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia attract large crowds, as do Davis Cup matches featuring the strong national team.
Meanwhile the general public has taken up the sport with enthusiasm. Tennis clubs, often featuring the red clay surface popular in southern Europe, are to be found everywhere in Spain, particularly in towns along the Mediterranean where mild temperatures allow play throughout the year. Although public courts can be hard to find, most private clubs welcome individuals in search of the casual game, drills, or lessons at a reasonable fee.
On a recent trip to Spain I spent six weeks on the tennis friendly Costa Blanca, between Valencia and Alicante, in the port town of Jávea.
In these parts the visitor with an urge to play can find himself, as I did, matched up within days of arrival. You needn’t even make inquiries in Spanish.
“New in town? Don’t happen to fancy a bit of tennis, do you?” A fellow with a Yorkshire accent, sporting a Kiwanis button, chatted me up on a first day stroll along the beach.
“Come on over tomorrow, then,” he pointed towards a complex a few blocks off the boardwalk. “We play Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at ten. Twenty of us or so. Throw in five euros for balls and court time. Coffee afterwards.”
The author, left, and British partner at Sol Park.
So it began. This engaging group of men and women was mostly British, residents who lived at least part of the year in Spain. At other local clubs I soon hooked up with Spanish players as well as ex-pats from all over Europe — German, Dutch, French, Swiss, Scandinavian, even Russian enthusiasts for the game.
One of my favorite spots turned out to be a facility just south of Jávea along the coast in tranquil Moraira. Here at Sol Park the national profile is Dutch as well as British. The yielding surface — seven courts of rubberized artificial grass mixed with sand — proved quite congenial to my travel-weary feet.
Sol Park also turned out to be an excellent venue for lessons and drills under the tutelage of Stephen James-Bourne, once a top UK player who put in a stint as Tennis Director at the well-regarded Saddlebrook club in Florida. Stephen also organizes tennis holidays, with accommodation, at a reasonable price.
Of course I did want to have a crack at the famous red clay surface. Around Jávea I found several such layouts.
The most casual is Los Piños with seven red clay courts. Los Piños is much frequented by German residents who form something of a colony in the neighborhood of Cabo de la Nao, eastern-most reach of the Iberian mainland.
Like the British and Dutch flavored clubs, Los Piños welcomes the odd Yank like myself, allowing him to blend right in. Coffee afterwards? Here preferred libations run to “bier und schnapps”.
To plug into the local Spanish set try the Tennis Club of Jávea, with eight impeccable courts (six clay, two synthetic) all lighted for night play. The Club is home to Ferrer Tennis Academy, a top-notch teaching facility founded by native son David Ferrer, one of Spain’s best professional players, along with his brother Javier.
Those preferring a resort atmosphere might look to Marriott La Sella Golf Resort & Spa. This leafy hideaway a short drive from the ports of either Jávea or Denia, its sister city, includes a tennis facility with five red clay and three artificial grass courts, all lighted. The residential community at La Sella rents apartments right next to the courts on a short-term basis.
No matter where you travel in Spain, the popularity of tennis makes it relatively easy to find a game. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia, which host major tournaments on the pro circuit, are home to a number of private clubs and resort hotels offering tennis.
You can run across some awfully good tennis in unexpected places. When my ramblings took me to Zaragoza, the wind-blown capital of Aragon, people suggested I visit the local club. To reach the Real Zaragoza Club de Tenis required a ten mile drive through scrublands to a remote locale near the airport. A battered sign, noticeable only if you happened to be looking for it, pointed the way over a rutted access road.
Zaragoza tennis means battling the winds.
Once I’d entered the grounds, however, a first class facility seemed to materialize out of nowhere. A dozen courts, red clay and hard surface, both outdoor and indoor, all of them populated to capacity. Indoor tennis was advisable here, and millions spent on it, because of the infamous Zaragoza winds. Note that some outdoors courts (see photo above) were excavated in an attempt to mitigate the Aeolian blasts. The whole scene was a joy to behold. To put up with what they did, these Zaragozans really had to love their tennis! Golf as well, at the nearby Club de Golf La Penaza.
La Penaza golf is nearby.
Spain’s most developed concentration of court sites is along the Mediterranean Coast, especially the southern reaches from the Costa Blanca down through the Costa del Sol as well out on the Balearic Islands. Here the main attraction is year-round play under sunny skies. Although summers can be hot, humidity is rarely a deterrent to play. Spring and autumn temperatures are in the 70s and the short winter offers bright weather with highs around 60, perfect for that two hour session before lunch.
A special treat for those looking to a high-end stay featuring tennis or golf is the magnificent resort at La Manga Club. Situated among rolling hills along the coast near Cartagena, this 1,400 acre property is literally a town unto itself, featuring the five-star hotel Prince Felipe Hotel, villas, apartments, and a 2,000 square meter Spa and Fitness Center.
The tennis center has 28 courts, including 20 red clay plus hard and artificial grass surfaces. Among the dozen or so teaching pros on hand at various times of the year, coordinator James Rose takes excellent care of the English-speaking clientele in search of match play, lessons, and drills.
Further south along the Costa del Sol between Malaga and Marbella tennis clubs proliferate within communities so thick with ex-pats that one occasionally runs across signs like “Aqui se habla Español” (we can speak Spanish here)!
For more information about Spain, visit: http://www.spain.info/
— Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine European Editor; photos by Donna Nemanic. Read Jerry and Donna's feature about Spanning Espana, a Cruise and Roadtrip.