Tennis Camps, from Nick Bollettieri's to Harry Hopman's, Turn Games Inside Out in a Couple of Long, Hard Days
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As for those planned luxury villas, until the complex is fully built--or for just an ideal getaway from windshield wiper drills--stay at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key (800/4-Colony), a 20-minute drive from Bollettieri's. Along with fine restaurants offering a wine list praised by Wine Spectator, this cigar friendly hotel (see Cigar Aficionado, Spring 1996) sits on a tranquil white beach, just a few miles from the well-stocked humidors of Bennington's Tobacconist in Sarasota.
Van der Meer Tennis Center
On Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, golf is a religion. There are Big Bertha Burgers and 24-hour miniature golf courses. This is the only place in the country where Ping outlet shops outnumber the combined total of McDonald's, Wendy's and Waffle Houses.
Tennis might seem to be an afterthought, yet the Van der Meer Tennis Center is an appealing destination for beginning and intermediate players. Unlike Bollettieri's academy, which focuses on killer, rip-the-ball ground strokes, Van der Meer stresses fundamentals. Here, students (usually five per teacher) are taught the ABCs of hand coordination, proper footwork, body position and ball placement.
There are special clinics for more advanced players, usually supervised by the folksy, joke-cracking Dennis Van der Meer. Yet this modestly priced camp, which plays down the gospel of low instructor-to-student ratios, is an excellent choice for novice players.
"I want to give people a simple base, then let them develop their own style," says Van der Meer, a coach for 30 years, who also supervises a program at Marriott's Grande Ocean Resort on Hilton Head Island. "We go into the core elements of each stroke and teach them in small progressions. We can teach people to really serve--not just push the ball into play--in a weekend."
That philosophy is the perfect complement to a tennis vacation. No muscle aches. No do-or-die drillmasters. Just be aware that the island is famous for outlet shopping malls, where overeager family members may be tempted to splurge.
Van der Meer conducts programs at select U.S. locations, and worldwide, from the Gray Rocks Inn in St. Jovite, Quebec, to Hachioji City, Japan.
At Hilton Head, five-day clinics--24 total hours of instruction--without lodging, Monday to Friday, March to November, are $315.
Accommodation packages vary from $60 to $200 per night. Three-day sessions are $195 to $250.
Harry Hopman Tennis Academy
Seafood buffets. Candlelit restaurants. Get-away-from-it-all saunas and swimming pools. Maybe even a cigar and a relaxing round of golf.
Life is sweet at Harry Hopman's camp in Wesley Chapel, Florida, at the luxurious Saddlebrook resort near Tampa. As academy director Howard Moore says, "Here you can leave the sweat and grit on the court, and totally pamper yourself." That sounds terrific; a hedonistic approach to mastering tennis. But before any camper takes out his golf clubs, or enjoys nearby Busch Gardens, he'll need a masseuse. Hopman's is another drill-crazed proving ground dedicated to racing and reaching.
"In our small groups, we challenge players, try to get them to move a little faster," says Moore, echoing the principles of the late Harry Hopman, who taught such immortals as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe. "We want our students to be stretched, to get to balls they never reached before."
So, in the merciless Florida sun, intermediate to advanced players should be prepared for tennis' version of the Paris to Dakar rally: nonstop racing to improve court coverage and endurance. Bring the bottled water. It'll be part of yoursurvival kit.
A year-round program, the five-day clinic (25 hours of instruction) costs from $864 (May to September) to $1,122 (December to April), including accommodations.
The daily rate (for five hours) at any time of the year is $100, which doesn't include lodging.
Call 800/729-8383 for further information.
Reed Anderson Tennis School
Skipping the all-day drills of most facilities and believing in the "teaching of individuals, not systems," Reed Anderson gives stroke mechanics a hip, laid-back twist, with three-hour sessions and groups no larger than eight students. Afterward, the low-key Anderson, a teacher for 22 years, turns into a Jimmy Buffett, cheerfully announcing, "It's Margarita time."
"We'll only do more than three hours if a guy is a die-hard, but I want to avoid burnout," says Anderson, 43, who runs his camp at the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, California. "While all-day schools are big on blisters and just aren't enjoyable, considering all the pain that's involved, we allow people rest periods and let them work at their own manageable pace. This way they don't lose focus. I don't overload them with a lot of lectures and words that flood their minds. Too much teaching just isn't effective."
In this casual setting, individualized--and videotaped--instruction is emphasized. Relying extensively on computerized ball machines, Anderson often stands next to a student, pinpointing and correcting a problem stroke while the group works on other skills. "There are no set agendas, no manic workouts," says Anderson. "I just try to take the stress out of learning. To make it a lot of fun." How typically Californian! The Jose Cuervo approach to swinging.
The five-day school, Monday to Friday (15 hours of instruction), costs $325. The weekend package (six hours) is $175.
Margaritas and accommodations are not included in either package. Students receive preferred room rates at the Westin Mission Hills Resort.
Call 800/386-4107 for more information.
If there is a budding Pete Sampras or Steffi Graf in your household, several U.S. academies offer world-class junior programs. The John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas (800/444-6204) has 30 pros welcoming juniors from ages eight to 18. Two-time U.S. Open winner John Newcombe supervises the 20-year-old program, which teaches students a smattering of Aussie phrases (a great shot is a "ripper") and emphasizes "Play hard, laugh hard."
In Florida, Fritz Nau's Gold Coast Tennis Academy in Boca Raton (407/274-0387) trains youngsters who "are dedicated to kicking some butt." A teacher for 21 years before setting up his own school, Nau wants to work with teenagers who'll stay at the camp for at least a year. "I'm not interested in guys who are already highly ranked, or in having a huge number of students," says Nau. "My goal is molding youngsters, to take a select group to the pro game."