Fine service: five UK tennis breaks - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

Fine service: five UK tennis breaks

Is Wimbledon inspiring you to get off the sofa and on to a court? Pack your kit, says Liat Joshi - there are plenty of places to improve your game in style

If Wimbledon has tempted you to book a tennis holiday, you no longer need to head abroad. Courts at British hotels used to be patches of pot-holed tarmac or overgrown grass with rusty net posts. But now a handful of four and five-star hotels offer facilities worthy of SW19's finest. Some have indoor tennis centres (so rain can't stop play) and intensive coaching programmes; others are luxurious resorts with top-class tuition, numerous courts and spas for that post-match massage. And most have the advantage of enough off-court activities to keep non-tennis playing partners as happy as a Wimbledon champion.

If Wimbledon has tempted you to book a tennis holiday, you no longer need to head abroad. Courts at British hotels used to be patches of pot-holed tarmac or overgrown grass with rusty net posts. But now a handful of four and five-star hotels offer facilities worthy of SW19's finest. Some have indoor tennis centres (so rain can't stop play) and intensive coaching programmes; others are luxurious resorts with top-class tuition, numerous courts and spas for that post-match massage. And most have the advantage of enough off-court activities to keep non-tennis playing partners as happy as a Wimbledon champion.

Stoke Park Club, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Stoke Park's six immaculate grass courts attract leading players, including Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis, to enter the annual Champions Challenge tournament held there each June. Add three indoor and four all-weather courts and you've got a surface to suit every player's taste. As well as being a hotel, Stoke Park is an upmarket country club where guests can join regular organised tennis sessions, or book individual lessons with the three pros. An award-winning and stylish spa offers soothing sports massages and the on-site pro-shop is equally swanky, stocking Ralph Lauren and Prada tennis kit.

As impressive off court as on, its stately Palladian main building is surrounded by 350 acres of parkland, partly designed by Capability Brown, and the golf course where 007 played Goldfinger in the 1964 James Bond movie. The rooms are romantic enough to make even sweaty, exhausted tennis players feel glamorous, with opulent furnishings and sizeable roll-top baths: ideal for a good soak while daydreaming about winning your first Grand Slam.

Stoke Park Club (01753 717171; www.stokeparkclub.com) offers doubles from £270 per night room only, based on two sharing, with free use of courts. Individual lessons cost £35 per hour.

Hampshire Centrecourt, Basingstoke

Basingstoke doesn't top most people's weekend break wish-lists but the intensity of Centrecourt's courses means there is little time to explore much beyond the indoor tennis centre anyway. The coaching team, which trains some of Britain's best young players, leads an achingly tough 10 hours of play over two days, using video analysis to fine-tune those forehands. The socialising is intensive, too, as guests are encouraged to dine together.

Centrecourt is so tennis-focused that it's built around a central courtyard containing an outdoor clay court - hence the name.

Though it might lack the manicured grounds and impressive mansions of other options for a tennis break, the hotel is newly and tastefully refurbished and the quality of coaching makes this an ace choice for anyone seeking serious improvement in their game.

Hampshire Centrecourt (01256 330360; www.marstonhotels.com/tennis) offers two nights' full board from £203 per person, based on two sharing, with tuition.

Virginia Wade Tennis Week, The Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire

Gleneagles might be better known for golf than tennis but each July it draws the former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade north to "Tennis Week" - actually five days, from Sunday to Thursday.

Accompanied by her coaching team, Wade runs group clinics each morning, with optional "social" play in the afternoons. The course starts with an assessment of playing standards - ensuring everyone gets appropriate tuition - and culminates with a tournament and champagne gala dinner. As well as five outdoor courts, indoor facilities are available.

Wade is tremendously hands-on and there is ample opportunity to hear tales of her Grand Slam glories - she won three and 52 other singles titles.

While Gleneagles has all the trappings of a traditional country estate - with hunting, shooting and fishing - its bedrooms are firmly 21st century. The chintz was chucked out in a recent overhaul which has resulted in a moody, masculine look, with tartan throws adding a typically subtle Scottish touch.

Virginia Wade Tennis Week, 25 -30 July 2004 (0800 3893737; www.gleneagles.com/virginiawade) costs £1,365 per person, including five nights' half board, with lunch on the last day, and tuition.

Chewton Glen, Hampshire

Five times a year, Chewton Glen's coach, Matthew Salisbury, runs "tennis masterclasses", with enough tuition to ensure you go home a better player but sufficient free time to explore the nearby New Forest and Hampshire coastline. The unusual artificial clay indoor courts are a delight to play on - so much so that Monica Seles practised here a few years back.

Think that your racket-wielding exertions mean you'll go home several pounds lighter? Well, no - five-course dinners each evening in Chewton's Michelin-starred restaurant more than make up for calories burned on court.

Chewton, with five red AA stars, is deservedly renowned for its impeccable service. Everything is top quality, from the Valrhona chocolates in your room to the handmade shortbread provided for your journey home. Chewton Glen (01425 275341, www.chewtonglen.com) offers two nights for two people from £695, including half board and tuition. Individual lessons cost £35 per hour.

Grand Slam Weekends, Foxhills, Surrey

Foxhills is a sporting haven, set in 400 acres, just a toss of the ball from the M25. As well as 12 outdoor courts, there's an enormous gym, 50 weekly exercise classes, squash and racquetball facilities, a nine-hole golf course and three swimming pools. Fifteen hours of free coaching clinics are available each week and beginners needn't worry about being aced too often, as players are grouped by ability. Three pros provide individual coaching and a "matchmaking service" that finds guests suitable opponents.

All this should work up an appetite for dinner in the restaurant, in the 19th-century mansion's romantic former music room. The four-star hotel bedrooms are tastefully furnished and spacious, with thoughtful touches such as proper coffee, fresh milk and stacks of glossy magazines.

Foxhills is ideal for parents who want to bring their future champions along: with children's tennis and golf sessions and a crèche for under-fives.

Foxhills (01932 872050, www.foxhills.co.uk) offers its Grand Slam package for £95 per person per night, including half board and tennis clinics. Individual lessons cost £25 per hour.

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