UP YOUR GAME
Love hitting those yellow balls? Lucy Fry heads to Greece on a tennis break for top coaching plus lots of time to relax.
There’s nothing like playing tennis with a former professional to make your your hardest. I discover this athe Neilson Messini Beachclub in Southern Greece, on the Mark Petchey tennis programme. One Minute I’m across the net from a40-something folk singer from Surrey, the next I’m in the midst of a private lesson with Mark Petchey, the British blondie who was once ranked 80th in the world. Eeek.
TIPS FROM THE TOP
How on earth did this come to pass? Good timing is the answer: Petchey (also famous for coaching Andy Murray) is the newly-appointed Nielsen tennis ambassador and consultant. And for one week only, he swooped in to Messini (as he will Neilson’s Mother Turkish and Greek resorts) to fine-tune the tennis programme, feed advice to coaches and lovingly torture guests like me.‘Cross-court forehand, then down the line and run in for the volley!’ yells Petchey,as I huff and puff around the court, my vision blurred by sweat. ‘Don’t grip the racket too tightly! With a loose grip you can let the racket do what it’s supposed to do…’ His eyes twinkle for a moment before he adds: ‘Create spin.’It’s not just the ball that’s doing the spinning. My head too, is suffering due to both the 33°Cheat and the fact that, with Petchey as coach, tennis is as much like boxing as it is a ball game. If I could standstill for a second, I might appreciate the glorious view of the Peloponnese peninsula and the ocean.‘I believe in high-energy tennis and that everybody can improve their game and become more confident players whatever their age or ability,’ Petchey grins. ‘Always Remember though: there are worse things in life than losing a tennis match. Every game is an opportunity to simply see what you can do.’
Beachclub in Southern Greece Photo Gallery
COACHING FOR ALL
It’s not just Petchey who embodies these ideas, but all the Neilson coaches. In fact this kind of enthusiastic, non-elitist attitude makes the atmosphere on each of the resort’s five courts. Play as much as you can, but never forget that you’re on holiday is the motto. All guests can have one hour of group coaching per day (all inclusive),made even easier by the fact that the courts are within 150m of the beach/bar your room. All (high-quality) rackets and balls are provided and you don’t even need to wear specialist tennis shoes. There are different groups for different levels – from green (racket rookies) to black (tennis ninjas), with red and blue groups in between. Times of lessons alternate daily for each group, allowing you to manage both your sunburn and your lie-ins, and the focus of the lessons rotates through forehand, backhand, serve and volley (with a couple of days at the end to put it all together and one coaches’ day off).
If you want some extra time on court, you can either book a court during off-peak times join in for social tennis every evening or turn up mid-week for Booze n’ Balls – you can probably imagine what that involves Perhaps your best chance of radical improvement, however, is to book in for private lessons, as I do with seasoned tennis coach, Adam. First things first,he corrects some glaring errors in my forehand, starting with the use of my non-dominant hand, which for me is my right. Previously, my right hand had dropped (think gorilla aimlessly wandering through the jungle) and as I reached back to twist left in preparation for a forehand could only move around a certain amount Yet, with the right hand up as Adam Suggests, pointing towards the ball as it comes towards me, I can rotate fully (safer for my back) and twist to hit the ball with the full force of my core muscles. Add to that some better racket positioning (so I Can add topspin) and it takes about twenty minutes to teach before we’ve completely transformed my tennis game – on one side anyway.
But even Serena Williams takes a break sometimes and, when you’re ready to give your racket a rest, there are lots of other activities available at Messini. These include a range of fitness classes,watersports (such as sailing,windsurfing and waterskiing),lapping up the sun in the Olympic-sized swimming pool or relaxing in spa. The cycling programme at Messini is also excellent, with both mountain and road bikes available to borrow either for a solitary or group ride.With all this exercise, you need fuel, and the food is ideal for hungry sporty types – buffet style with a range of dishes from locally-inspired Moussaka to Italian and BBQ nights – and the evening entertainment is often both amusing and fairly raucous. In fact you’ll have plenty of opportunity to let your hair down – just don’t forget to put it up in the morning, you’ve got a tennis lesson to attend…
The Neilson Holidays Mark Petchey tennis programme launched this year across a Greek and Turkish Beachclub For more information, visit:neilson.co.uk/activities/tenni /tennis-academy-mark-petchey or call 0333 014 3351.Seven nights at Neilson MessBeachclub, Greece costs for£875pp, departing London Heathrow on July 3 for 7 nights the Neilson Messini Beachclub, Greece.