La Manga Club is the go-to destination for some of the world’s top tennis players. As Sophie Brown discovers, with 28 courts, an abundance of sunshine, restaurants,three golf courses and spa facilities, the Spanish resort welcomes visitors of all abilities
The week after he visited La Manga in April, British number four Dan Evans broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time. My own aspirations on arriving at the famous Spanish resort are somewhat more modest – really, just a backhand that regularly gets over the net will do.
Evans’ appearance in this corner of south-eastern Spain is the result of a long-standing partnership between the resort and the Lawn Tennis Association, which uses La Manga’s extensive facilities as an overseas training base, taking advantage of those rarities to the UK – top-notch clay courts and abundant sunshine.
But La Manga isn’t just for the supremely talented. In fact, one of the club’s many pleasing idiosyncrasies is the difference in standard of tennis played across the 28 beautifully maintained courts. From the balcony of the Tie Break café which overlooks the complex, you can admire the elite players doing battle in lung-busting rallies; meanwhile on adjacent courts can be heard the excited giggling of a class of under-sevens, and the pitt-patt rallies of a ladies-who-lunch doubles.
While the abilities of the players might be mixed, however, there is nothing amateur about the coaching, which is done in small groups. Director of coaching, James Rose, and his team of professionals (up to 20 in the summer months) demonstrate the basics and devise a series of drills to aid understanding and improve technique, and also organise mini-tournaments to put the new skills into match practice.
It is taken seriously but those in charge never forget that for most, this is a holiday, and sessions are always fun and full of laughter.
Playing on clay is an unfamiliar experience for most Britons, who make up the majority of visitors to La Manga. It may ruin white socks but it is the ideal surface for learning tennis, as its slower bounce puts more emphasis on shot selection and allows more time to hone technique.
La Manga tailors its tuition to suit all levels, ages (including children) and lengths of visit but one of its most popular courses is the week-long academy, which runs from Monday to Friday and comprises two hours of tuition a day, offering plenty of time to practise or take advantage of the resort’s other amenities. It is the latter which is probably the biggest obstacle to tennis improvement.
A luxurious spa, gyms, swimming pools and countless bars and restaurants are scattered over the resort. There are three golf courses, off-road cycle tracks, a bowling green and even eight full-size football pitches.
Newcastle United were the latest Premier League side to enjoy some warm-weather training here – although after a woeful season ending in relegation, fans might question their credentials for visiting the High Performance Sport Centre located at the resort might be in doubt. (They would have been OK, it’s open to all guests.)
Accommodation ranges from the five-star Principe Felipe Hotel to self-catering apartments. A free shuttle-bus service links all ends of the vast site – just as well, as it covers an area three times the size of Monaco.
For those self-catering, there is a large and well-stocked supermarket next to the tennis centre, and a range of restaurants to suit all tastes. From the fine dining at Amapola, which overlooks one of the golf courses, to the Irish pub Mulligan’s, you could spend the best part of a month here without spending two evenings in the same place.
Well worth the two-mile shuttle ride is the fish restaurant La Cala, which is nestled in the rocks overlooking the Mediterranean, and which serves up the freshly grilled catch of the day, along with a delicious caldero, Murcia’s version of paella.
The hotel feels timeless yet not old-fashioned, formal yet friendly – just two of a series of balancing tricks the resort pulls off. It offers active yet relaxing holidays, it welcomes both world-class athletes and hesitant novices, and its large and spacious complex means it can be both bustling yet peaceful.
My tennis break left me feeling relaxed and refreshed – and yes, although I say it myself, with a remodelled and definitely more consistent backhand.
La Manga – getting there
La Manga is situated in Murcia in south-eastern Spain. It is a 20-minute drive from Murcia airport and an hour’s drive from Alicante. Monarch flies to Alicante from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester with fares, including taxes, starting from £33 one way. For further information see monarch.co.uk
La Manga accommodation
A double room at Hotel Principe Felipe (including breakfast and access to the spa) is €180 (approximately £138) per night high season and €126 (approximately £97) per night in the low season.
La Manga tennis academy
10 hours’ tuition, Monday-Friday: high season, €300 (approximately £230); low season, €225 (approximately £176).
For more information visit: lamangaclub.com/sports-leisure/tennis-centre-la-manga-club