Tennis Resorts Online
Contents: John Newcombe Talks About Founding Newk's Ranch |
Emilio Sanchez on "Spanish Method" and His Florida Academy |
Update on Southwest Florida Resorts | Resort/Camp News | Specials/Discounts | Vacation Giveaway

Interview With Tennis Legend John Newcombe

Roger Cox, Editor

John Newcombe and Roger Cox, John Newcombe Tennis Ranch, New Braunfels, TX

Tennis legend John Newcombe spends about six weeks a year at his John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas, including the quarter-century-old Legends Fantasy Week in October and a Co-Ed Fantasy Week in March. I caught up with him on the weekend immediately following the Legends (NOTE: that's a weekend he's often there) when he strolled into one afternoon. After patiently submitting to a flurry of photo ops, he stepped onto the court to personally demonstrate the basics of the lob, one of the strokes on the afternoon agenda. Afterward, I interviewed him about how he came to start the ranch in the first place and the philosophy behind it, on court and off.

Emilio Sánchez On "the Spanish Method" and His Florida Academy

The Academia Sánchez-Casal in Barcelona, Spain is justifiably famous as the training ground for such international standouts as Andy Murray, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Ivanovic, Janko Tipsarevic, and others. In 2012, Emilio Sanchez and campers, Academia Sanchez-Casal, Naples, FLthey bought the former Naples Bath & Tennis Club in Florida, bringing the so-called "Spanish Method" to a satellite campus run by none other than co-founder Emilio Sánchez himself. During his career on tour, he had a Top 10 ranking in singles and No. 1 in doubles, winning three Grand Slam doubles titles (two French, one U.S. Open) and later served as captain of the Spanish Davis Cup during its championship 2008 season. In Naples, he personally takes a role in the on-court instruction as he works to build this budding junior academy into one as effective as its Spanish sister. But just what is "the Spanish Method" anyway?
"The Spanish method is a way of placing yourself to hit the ball," Sánchez began. "In our clinics, we divide the court in three areas (here he draws a court and circles the area behind the baseline, the area between the baseline and service line and the area from the service line to the net). Inside these areas we will always move diagonally whenever we attack ball, so there is a lot of emphasis on footwork and movement. It makes players tougher. And because they work much harder in the practice sessions, in the matches they are more like survivors, they are warriors. They don't mind doing what they have to do to get behind the ball, and they know that if they can get behind the ball, they're going to have more options to hit the ball more places." More on the adult and junior programs at the Florida campus of the Academia Sánchez-Casal.

Resort Hopping In Southwest Florida

When it was 38° in New York City on the day I left for Florida, but if I was thrilled to be headed for a warmer climate, I was particularly enthusiastic about revisiting three exceptional beach and tennis resorts along the Gulf Coast corridor, from Naples north to Sarasota. All three had undergone changes for the better, whether in ownership, staffing, capital improvements, or some combination. I was eager to see first-hand how that had impacted the guests' experience.

Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples. When I arrived, I was told that there was a large convention at the hotel, which meant I'd have virtually no competition at all for the pool, fitness center, restaurants, or shuttle to the beach ¾ of a mile away beyond a stand of mangroves. Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples, FLOrdinarily, however, that could easily have an adverse effect on tennis activities by sequestering potential players in the conference center (which is on the second floor where it doesn't impact the lobby or other public areas) during the most playable hours. I could see the courts from the balcony of my room as they extended east past a cluster of red-tile-roofed tennis villas, and when I headed there the next morning—it's perhaps a two-minute walk from the lobby—I arrived to find many of the 15 clay courts were already in use. The bulk of these were local members, it turned out, but the hotel also permits outsiders to take clinics and participate in tennis activities.
PBI tennis director Adri Atkinson and her husband Daniel, who manages the shop, are happy to be in a warm climate after nine years at the Bio-Hotel in Stanglwirt, Austria. They've bought a home in Naples and she's expecting their first child, so she hopes to stay here for the foreseeable future. Quite apart from the advantages for her, she sees advantages for the program.
"It's been the same team for a year," she notes. "People get more relaxed and willing to participate." That has led to increased programming. "We added a lot more mixed doubles—the pro sets the lineups and provides the balls, rather than running it." They also stage fun doubles with food afterwards, which has both increased participation—these events get 24 to 30 players—but also encouraged hanging around and socializing after tennis. Guests are welcome but activities go on even when they're stuck in meetings. There is more about the resort, as well as reader reviews, at Naples Grande Beach Resort.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island. As I crossed over the causeway from Sanibel Island onto Captiva Island, I glanced down at a dozen or so people, bent over South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island, FLin a posture known as the "Sanibel Stoop," as they combed through piles of shell fragments that had washed up onto the beach hoping to find an intact cat's paw or cowrie or auger shell or any of dozens of others as a souvenir. Later, as I walked along the beach at South Seas, I found myself also looking down, though since the beach had been recently refurbished, the sea had not yet had time to do much more than deposit a few pockets of shells along the high-tide mark. Give it time, the locals assured me, and the shells would be back.
Sanibel and Captiva islands, you may already know, rank among the world's great shelling beaches. That's not what brought me here, however. South Seas Island Resort, a 330-acre property that occupies the entire northern tip of Captiva Island, had recently brought in the Pavel & Blackwood Tennis Academy to manage the main complex of 11 hard courts. I arrived during an inaugural $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Women's event that had attracted such notable Americans as Melanie Oudin, Taylor Townsend, Victoria Duval, Coco Vandeweghe, and Julia Cohen. Nick Blackwood had brought in the event intending to raise the resort's tennis profile in order to and thus encourage groups of tennis players to look into their customized packages.
We're looking to build on our destination type packages," Blackwood told me during a break from the tournament. "We've really done a lot with the ladies and men's teams that come down for getaways from up north, and we're looking to continue that and also offer some more high performance camps. there's the adult population that's looking for that intense package. With our junior programming and our pro backgrounds, we can take them from high level all the way down to recreational level, make it fun, intense, we customize every package to whatever the group is looking for."

The Resort at Longboat Key Club. I had wanted to be at the ribbon cutting for the Tennis Gardens when the 20-court complex opened in 2009, but the timing didn't work out and somehow it took me four years before I finally got the chance to experience it first hand. I'd seen photos of the facility, of course, knew that the USTA had given it an Tennis Gardens at The Resort at Longboat Key Club, Longboat Key, FLOutstanding Facility Award in 2009, and had read the positive responses on vacationers on my website. Still, none of that is a substitute for being there, which I finally managed to do last week. After strolling around the spacious layout, which borders Sarasota Bay, I sat down with tennis director John Woods, who's been here since 1976, over breakfast at Club 21, the cafe overlooking the center court.
"I didn't have that much impact [on the design] other than the stadium court, which I wanted that recessed so that we could do exactly what we're doing here," he told me as we watched a couple of women warming up below us. "And I wanted the players' patio," he continued, referring to a broad open deck furnished with comfortable couches and chairs, whose padded cushions are stored each night and brought back out every morning. "I wanted a place where we can have parties, where we can congregate for team tennis, or as a staging area—it's phenomenal. The only thing I still want to do is get it covered."
Woods calls the court "recessed" but in fact it's really the platform containing the pro shop, cafe, and player patio that has been raised to provide an elevated view. That helps to make it a particularly inviting place to hang out—and to spectate. In conceiving the design, Woods intended to build a facility that could host tournaments and he succeeded in attracting the Sarasota Open, a USTA Men's Pro Circuit event which takes place every spring (Apr. 12-20, 2014) accompanied by an invitational women's tournament. All in all the Tennis Gardens have helped bring a heightened level of excitement to tennis at the Resort at Longboat Key Club, for members and vacationers alike. Check out the other features of the resort and reader reviews at The Resort at Longboat Key Club.

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John Gardiner induction into the USTA Southwest Tennis Hall of Fame

SW Hall of Fame To Induct Tennis Camp Pioneer John Gardiner

The USTA Southwest section has announced plans to induct tennis camp pioneer John Gardiner into its Hall of Fame. Two of his 11 venues were in Arizona, including the John Gardiner Tennis Ranch on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, which he opened in 1971 and where for many years he hosted the Senator's Cup, an event that attracted prominent political, entertainment, and tennis figures and raised more than $4 million for Arizona's Hospice of the Valley. In choosing him for the Hall of Fame, the committee recognized him as "a landmark figure [whose] clubs brought great credibility to tennis in Arizona." His posthumous induction will take place Nov. 15 in Phoenix. More information, visit John Gardiner to be inducted into SW Hall of Fame

Resort and Camp News

Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands has a new Peter Burwash International pro, Leon Patchett. … In Arizona, Jonathan Davis has taken the tennis director position at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon in Tucson. … On South Carolina's Hilton Head Island, the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa has just completed a $30 renovation and is highlighting the event with a Rejuvenation package that includes a massage, yoga class, and two hours of tennis at the nearby Port Royal Racquet Club. … The four-court Ritz-Carlton, Naples in Florida is now being managed by Peter Burwash International, which has installed Roger Browne, a former Pepperdine University and circuit player, as tennis director.

Vacation Giveaway

Tennis Resorts Online values your opinion, so much so that we're giving you a chance to win one of three tennis vacations we're giving away. All you have to do is review your experience as a guest at any tennis resort or camp worldwide. Every review you file gives you one more chance at one of the following prizes:

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For details visit Rate a Resort or Camp or Rate a Junior Tennis Camp and fill out a form for each resort or camp you know firsthand. The next drawing will take place on May 1, 2014 once we tabulate your reviews to determine our rankings of the Top 100 Resorts & Camps for 2014.

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©2012 Roger Cox