Virtuoso Traveler 2019 February The Sporting Life: Court's in Session in San Diego

The Sporting Life: Court's in Session in San Diego

Tennis, anyone? Meet us at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa.
Tennis, anyone? Meet us at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa.
A tennis-centric stay in San Diego will serve you well.

In September 2018, the results of a Danish study of nearly 8,600 men and women revealed that active tennis players extended their lives by an average of nearly ten years. Granted, this decade gain was in comparison to those with a sedentary lifestyle, but the lively racquet sport also aced the rest of its competition, with activities such as jogging, swimming, and cycling each increasing longevity by fewer than four years.

In additional good news for tennis players who love to travel, luxury resorts are upping their games. Take, for example, South Carolina’s Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which recently added ten Har-Tru HydroCourts (traditional clay courts require daily watering for maintenance; these use subsurface irrigation, so players never have to wait for the courts to dry), bringing its total count to an impressive 23. In Switzerland, Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa’s new “Diamond Domes” house two indoor Schöpp ProBounce carpeted courts to promote year-round play.

But the renewed focus on tennis at high-end hotels goes way beyond the surface: A number of properties are also pouring plenty of investment into professionals and related activities. Pamela Appleby, a Beverly Hills-based Virtuoso travel advisor, chalks up changes like these to travelers’ demanding schedules. “Many of my clients are busy executives who can barely steal away for court time at their local country club,” she says. “If they’re going to travel somewhere to play, the property, pros, and programming must all be exceptional.”

Case in point: San Diego’s Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, a favorite of Appleby’s and fellow Virtuoso advisors such as Melissa Porzak, who specialize, in part, in active getaways. A tennis pro for 25 years – named Pro of the Year in 1980 by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the first female president of its San Diego division – Porzak is quick to point tennis fans toward her hometown haven. And for good reason, as I learned during my recent visit: The resort excels at helping players of all levels (including those, like me, hoping to brush the rust off my skills after playing for my college team) discover their sweet spot. From getting a grip on your game to following through with some post-play pampering, here’s why you can expect to easily get in the swing of things during your stay.

Rancho Valencia’s premier tennis courts. 
Rancho Valencia’s premier tennis courts. 

Sunny Disposition

“Not only are Rancho Valencia’s 18 courts beautifully set among citrus groves, eucalyptus trees, and bougainvillea,” says Porzak, “but also the resort is located in San Diego’s Rancho Santa Fe area, where the weather is ideal for tennis year-round.” Thank the property’s inland location for such flawless conditions: Though it’s only a 15-minute drive from the shore, the resort is sheltered from the gusty sea breezes and hazy morning skies common at San Diego’s coastline.

Given its history, it’s fitting that advisors such as Porzak and Appleby rave about Rancho Valencia, renowned for its dedication to the sport since tennis fanatic Harry Collins built the 49-casita resort in 1989. So many courts for so few rooms set a new industry standard, as did its clinics, originally designed by legendary pro John Gardiner – who schooled everyone from presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to Hollywood royalty such as John Wayne and Gene Hackman.

Today, the resort maintains its tradition of hiring prestigious pros with tennis director Robin White, a two-time U.S. Open doubles champion and Australian Open finalist. Like many guests, I had the privilege of taking a personalized lesson with her. While the same rules apply as in my days of competitive play, it was evident a lot had changed in form and technique, from proper stance to follow-through. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly like riding a bicycle, but still proved to be just as much fun.

Cozy casita patios at Rancho Valencia. 
Cozy casita patios at Rancho Valencia. 

Clay On 

Home to 16 Plexipave championship courts, Rancho Valencia augmented its tennis offerings last year with two Clay-Tech red clay courts. “They’re a big draw for tennis enthusiasts,” says Porzak, who explains that, though popular in Europe, the surface is rare in the States, due in part to its hefty installation and maintenance expenses. “New technology made the endeavor possible,” White notes. “Being environmentally conscious is also important to us,” she says, “and our clay courts require very little water [relative to their predecessors] to maintain.”

Come game time, the tech lives up to its price tag: Red clay is the down comforter of courts, explains White, adding that it cushions joints from the impact experienced during play. “I can teach for four and a half hours on clay and feel as good as I’ve ever felt,” she says. But regardless of the surface you choose, regular tennis play has been credited with increasing bone density. That includes juniors, with one recent British study showing that children who play the sport boast up to 63 percent stronger bones than those who don’t.

Nurturing the next generation of pros.
Nurturing the next generation of pros.

Family Court

“Many tennis-savvy resorts now offer clinics that are ideal for multigenerational visitors,” says Appleby. Rancho Valencia’s family-friendly program provides tutelage for all ages and skill levels under pros such as White (a former coach of USPTA juniors) and Eduardo Sanchez (a tennis vet who helped launch the resort’s Gardiner camps in 1989). Additional clinics feature softer balls to help the youngest of players get into the action, while advanced players can develop their core during TRX Tennis classes and battle it out against the ball machine, which has a large variety of drills and can be activated via an iPad.

Not everyone in the clan has to be into tennis, however. The resort’s daily fitness programming ranges from intense spin and reformer Pilates classes to gentle yoga sessions with sound healing. Soothe sore muscles at the spa with a hot stone or sports massage, focusing on stretching and joint compression.

Rancho Valencia’s peaceful yoga pavilion.
Rancho Valencia’s peaceful yoga pavilion.

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