Travel: Anyone for tennis? Serving up a great sporting break in Murcia sunshine...
This 1,400-acre sporting mecca covers an area of land three times size of the principality of Monaco, and attracts athletes of all shapes and sizes, from professional teams to casual players, who come to enjoy its benign climate throughout the year.
I visited the resort with a group of British journalists for a four-day break with an emphasis on tennis, and stayed at the five-star Hotel Felipe.
Despite the sheer size of the site – guests can also stay in the Las Lomas self-catered apartment complex, and there is a range of privately-owned accommodation – there’s a relaxing ambience and capacity is carefully managed to ensure the resort does not feel overcrowded, even during peak season.
La Manga Club is most famous for its golf – there are three championship-standard courses, all beautifully kept and with a range of associated facilities, and the resort has hosted the Spanish Open in the past. Its pedigree has led to fruitful relationships with legends of the game such as Seve Ballesteros, and Sergio Garcia’s parents even met while working here.
But it was the tennis we were there to sample, and we found the 28-court tennis centre still basking in the glow of a recent successful stint hosting the Fed Cup tie between Spain and Paraguay’s top female players on its red clay.
Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith is a huge fan of La Manga, and often decamps here with his squad to escape the British winters – the club has been the official LTA overseas training base since 2012, meaning the country’s top players can be spotted practising on clay at various times of the year. British number one and Yorkshireman Kyle Edmund, who recently entered the world’s top 20, has visited for a training bloc with Greg Rusedski.
The facilities are fantastic – there are clay, artificial grass and hard courts, as well as the ampitheatre-style Centre Court with seating for 1,200 spectators. You can also play ‘padl’ tennis – an increasingly popular form of the game that resembles a hybrid cross between tennis and squash.
La Manga Club runs week-long and weekend academies for both adults and juniors of all levels, and the courts can also be booked privately by individuals and groups.
Our tour of the vast site also took in the ever-developing cricket academy, which is used as a training centre by England’s women, Scotland and Ireland, and is the focus of a new phase of expansion. Football is big business here – in the winter, Europe’s top sides arrive to use the immaculate training pitches, often bringing an entourage that includes their private chefs and nutritionists.
Liverpool visited last year, and manager Jurgen Klopp also brought his previous club Borussia Dortmund. Other centres include rugby – plans are afoot to affiliate the junior academy with an English Premiership club – netball, and even Gaelic football.
The on-site Wellness Centre includes a spa and gym that boasts a 25-metre pool, three jacuzzis and 13 treatment rooms, making La Manga Club an ideal choice for those looking to relax as well as train intensively.
La Manga Club can be enjoyed without the necessity of leaving the site – we dined at several excellent restaurants, serving a range of cuisines including Mediterranean, tapas, Italian, Asian fusion and seafood – the latter on a picturesque terrace overlooking a small but pristine beach.
La Manga Club is conveniently accessible from the UK – there are budget flights from most airports to San Javier, which is just a 20-minute transfer from the resort – a new airport due to open next summer will be located a similar distance away. Alicante’s terminal is also within transfer distance and offers a large number of winter flights.
The resort is family-friendly, especially during school holiday periods, with kids’ clubs to allow parents time to enjoy the sports academies. Children can also receive coaching in tennis, football, rugby and cricket. La Manga Club is stimulating and revitalising – but anyone searching for a slow-paced beach holiday should look elsewhere.
- Jet2 and Ryanair operate several flights per week from Leeds Bradford to San Javier in Murcia, and transfers to La Manga Club can be booked. Alicante Airport, which receives a large number of winter flights from the UK, is around an hour’s drive away.
- La Manga Club guests can choose from accommodation in the five-star Hotel Felipe, which is located close to the golf and tennis centres, or in the self-catered Las Lomas accommodation complex, which is a short distance from the Wellness Centre.