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Gstaad Palace
Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks

CH-3780 Gstaad, Switzerland

By Roger Cox, Editor

Gstaad Palace, Switzerland, home of Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks
Photo: Roger Cox

For almost as long as I've written about tennis vacations, I have dreamed of taking part in one of the Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks at the Gstaad Palace in Switzerland. Every summer for more than 40 years, this legendary winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles has taken up residence on the red-clay courts at this historic luxury hotel, dispensing tennis wisdom and tales from the tour to an assembled band of tennis enthusiasts from all over the world. My friend Terry Kahn wrote about it on TRO's blog pages at "Emmo and Gstaad: Living the Dream," after he and his wife Lesley Sylvester attended twice. In the late summer of 2014, I finally got to be participate myself.

It's not hard to appreciate why this was on my bucket list. Who wouldn't want to spend a week with one of the greatest tennis players ever? But there was something more: opportunities like this are becoming increasingly rare. It is unthinkable that any of this generation's crop of Grand Slam title-holders will ever devote whole weeks to teaching and entertaining hackers after they leave the tour. Once Emmo retires—and at age 79 with bad knees, he will eventually—there is no one with anything remotely like his tennis accomplishments waiting in the wings to take his place.
Emmo aside, part of the allure of these tennis weeks is their location in Europe. After an overnight flight to Geneva, I boarded a train at the airport for the scenic two-plus hour ride, first climbing above the vineyards lining Lake Geneva and then, after changing trains at Montreux, ascending into the Alps and eventually pulling into the station at Gstaad. From there, I could look up and see the turreted Gstaad Palace perched on a hillside above, my home for the next week.
One of the Leading Hotels of the World, the 150-room Gstaad Palace manages to be at once elegant and unpretentious. It dates to 1913 but more importantly it has been managed since 1938 (and owned since 1947) by the Scherz family. The service is unfailingly gracious and professional, from the bellman who picks you up at the train station, to the butler on your hotel floor and the waiters in the dining room. Recent renovations have kept the rooms—each seemingly a little different—thoroughly up to date. And the creature comforts continue with an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, spa, fitness center, and array of upscale shops.
Emerson's weeklong program, which runs five hours a day in a setting at 3,000 feet, may seem more rigorous than you'd expect to find at a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps. Yet he has developed an extraordinarily loyal international following, some of whom come if not every year then every few years. The appeal may begin on the courts; however, because the campers, Emerson, his wife Joy, and several of the pros have many of their meals together (most dining is included in the package price), a genuine camaraderie develops, spurred on by the Emersons' wealth of stories (they met when, according to Roy, he ball-boyed for one of her matches and was smitten) from the days when Aussie players were legendary for their work ethic, rigorous training, and booze-fueled partying, though Emerson himself no longer drinks.

Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks, Gstaad, Switzerland

Camps sizes vary from 15 to 40 (he has access to other courts in town if necessary). Divided into groups of three or four by level, we spent every morning and afternoon working on technique, doing drills, and playing doubles with members of his accomplished staff, among them his son Antony, a former ATP tour player and All-American from USC, and former Indian Davis Cup and tour player Ramesh Krishnan. Emmo himself roamed from court to court, making sure every one of us benefited from his expertise—and cajolery. When I lost concentration in the middle of a doubles point, he was quick to poke fun, saying, "Try to do your sleeping at night."
Roughly midweek the routine is broken as everyone goes off with Emmo on a picnic at Ruedi and Helen Wehren's farm in the Alps, where everyone dines on a sumptuous lunch catered by the Palace chef Peter Wyss and supplemented by the Wehrens' raclette and Alp cheeses. And at least once during the week Emmo rounds everyone up for dinner out at a typical Swiss restaurant.
The holiday comes to an end all too quickly. The final evening, everyone gathers for a final farewell dinner, highlighted by a performance by maitre d' Gildo Bocchini, a 46-year veteran of the Palace. A gifted singer, he first belted out arias from Tosca and then joined Roy to lead us all in singing "Waltzing Matilda." A fitting end to a fabulous week.

See Also

If looking for other luxury resorts with programs by a former touring pro, check out:

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Rates and Reservations

The prices for the Emerson weeks include lodging for six nights, instruction, all meals, one massage, use of the swimming pool and gymnasium, and taxes. For information and reservations, email Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks.

Emerson Weeks: June 21-27, 2015
From CHF 3,900; non-participant in same room, CHF 3,100

Emerson Weeks: June 28-July 4, 2015
From CHF 3,900; non-participant in same room, CHF 3,100

Emerson Weeks: July 5-11 and 19-25, 2015
From CHF 3,900; non-participant in same room, CHF 3,100

Emerson Weeks: Aug. 23-39 & Aug. 30-Sept. 5
From CHF 3,900; non-participant in same room, CHF 3,100

Emerson Weeks: Sept. 6-12, 2015
From CHF 3,900; non-participant in same room, CHF 3,100

Gstaad Palace
CH-3780 Gstaad, Switzerland
+41 (0)33 748 50 00
Web Link: Gstaad Palace/Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks

Travel Essentials

Seasons. June-September.

General Tourist Information. For general information about travel to Switzerland, check out the Swiss National Tourist Office website.

Sponsor Saddlebrook Free AdAdult Tennis Camp Special. Book the Saddlebrook Tennis School (which offers five hours a day of instruction) and a regular deluxe guest room at Saddlebrook Resort and they'll upgrade you to a one-bedroom suite* at no extra cost (two-night minimum) and include a complimentary Saddlebrook Amenity basket.

To get it, phone toll-free 800-729-8383, x4200 and ask for the Tennis Resorts Online Upgrade.

*Subject to availability at the time of booking www.saddlebrooktennis.com