July 12, 2013
Inspired by Andy Murray? Tempted to dust off that racket and brush up your backhand? Here are five fabulous places to play (or watch) tennis:
Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
OK, so this is a fantasy entry – but it’s still pretty cool. Staged for a promotional campaign back in 2005, Roger Federer and Andre Agassi took tennis brilliance to new heights (literally) when they played an exhibition match on the helipad of Dubai’s famous hotel – a mere 200 metres above the ground (YouTube action below is worth a watch). I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t dreamed of being Federer’s ball girl on more than one occasion…but even I would have had to draw the line at this!
La Manga Club, Spain
A personal favourite, this is the place I escape to when I want to work on my ground strokes as well as my tan. Official overseas training base for the Lawn Tennis Association, La Manga’s carefully-tended clay courts also play host to a number of the world’s top players, who come to the resort to prepare for their tournaments. I’m a recent recruit to tennis (what I lack in finesse, I make up for in enthusiasm) and could only apologise on finding out that my last coach had, just a couple of weeks earlier, been practice partner for world number three, David Ferrer.
Necker Island, Caribbean
Good news for those of us with £40,000 a night to spend on accommodation – Richard Branson has announced that his island paradise, Necker, will soon be re-available to rent. Following a devastating fire at the property in 2011, this Caribbean bolthole – which boasts two idyllically-located tennis courts – has been painstakingly restored to its former glory. For that price, you’d like to hope they’ll throw in the balls for free…
Centre Court, Wimbledon, UK
No list would be complete without the hallowed grass courts of the All England Club, London SW19, where Andy made us all proud by claiming the first British male Wimbledon win in 77 years. Built in 1922, and improved and extended several times since – including the addition of a sliding roof (in 2009) to accommodate the vagaries of the UK climate – Centre Court has survived not only the tantrums of highly-strung players over the years, but also a World War II bombing which destroyed 1,200 seats. I was lucky enough to be there for this year’s Ladies’ Final between Bartoli and Lisicki, and it’s magical.
Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, UK
Not quite up to Wimbledon standards but still fancy the chance to play on a proper grass court? Luton Hoo is a sumptuous Grade 1-listed stately home, set on a 1,000-acre estate on the Herts/Beds border, where guests have the opportunity to play on a circular Victorian grass tennis court. Complete with a summer house that revolves to follow the sun, the court’s also nicely sheltered from prevailing winds by clipped box hedges. I’d say a post-match Pimms on the hotel’s terrace is pretty much compulsory!