Billie Jean King once said “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” And for many it’s that dichotomy, grace vs. sweaty exertion, that makes tennis the ideal vacation activity. With spring and summer just around the corner, I thought it was the right time to grill an expert on tennis vacations. Roger Cox is a long-time sports journalist and the founder of the website Tennis ResortsOnline.com. Here’s how our conversation went:
Frommer: Have there been any changes in how tennis resorts attract customers recently? What are the trends?
Cox: More and more people really want to get a good workout at tennis resorts, so something called “cardio tennis” has evolved. The premise is “lets makes sure you’re doing a lot of running, let’s work on your footwork, let’s get that heart-rate up”. Basically, you’re working on the moves of the game, but at an elevated pace. You’ll have a pro feeding the balls at a rapid clip to a group of people and if you’re not hitting the ball, maybe you’re running the ladder that’s on the ground or doing little footsteps. They also have these things called “funny balls” that bounce in all directions, so the pro will likely be having you chase after those balls so you move more. The resorts even use heart rate monitors so guests can figure out how high their heart rate went andhow many calories they burned.
Frommer: How many resorts are implementing these programs?
Cox: More and more. Cardio Tennis is very popular. It’s also a great way of meeting new tennis players. You get new partners, you interact with them a little. You see who you want to play with later.
Frommer: Are there any new trends for families who enjoy tennis?
Cox: There are and the biggest one is something called “Quick Start”. This is something you may see at your local club or park courts. Quick Start is designed for little kids, starting at ages 3 or 4 and going up to age 8. The premise is let’s use a low net, let’s use a short court, very light rackets and Nerf balls so that the kids can whack the crap out of the ball and nobody gets hurt. With the really little kids, obviously they’re not playing tennis but they are developing hand-eye coordination and developing the skills they need to play. The 3 and 4 y olds are hysterical. They’re so much fun to watch. Omni Amelia Island Resort in Florida does this program really well.
Frommer: At your website, you try and guide your users to the best resort for them. Is there really that much variety?
Cox: There really is. People always ask me “what’s the best tennis resort” as if a single answer would cover all the bases. Obviously there are a lot of different things you could be looking for in a resort. Let’s suppose you’re really hard-core. You want to do five hours a day of running drills.
Frommer: That doesn’t sound like vacation to me!
Cox: For some of us that is. For those people, you might send them to Saddlebrook in Wesley Chapel, Florida or IMG Academy, the Nick Bolletieri property in Bradenton, Florida. These are the places that handle the hard core players very well.
Now let’s suppose you’re a couple and you want a nice little getaway. You want to get some tennis as part of it, but a spa would be good, along with good food. Why not go to some place like Rancho Valencia, a lovely property in La Jolla, California. It’s got 18 courts, its got a former US Open doubles champion as the tennis director but its also lovely, as it’s a Relais and Chateaux property. Another very nice one, with lots of variety, is Meadowood in the Napa Valley.
Frommer: Are there any good budget options?
Cox: There are. In the summer there are camp tennis programs on college campuses. Take for example the Nike Amherst program in Massachusetts. That’s a very good bargain because your money is going to what you care about—the tennis instruction—and you save money because you’re staying in a dorm and eating in the cafeteria. If you can’t travel in the summer, there are several high quality but low cost resorts that include food, like Total Tennis in Saugerties, NY and the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. Those will give you the resort experience without you having to spend a lot of money.
(Photo by KLMontgomery/Flickr)