It’s a testament to the popularity of tennis in California that the United States Tennis Association, the national governing body for the sport, had to create two separate sections for competitive play there — the only state in the country to get that treatment because there are just so many players. With pleasant weather year-round, Southern California, especially, has long had a reputation for being a mecca for tennis enthusiasts. The area produced the likes of Billie Jean King and the Bryan brothers and has hosted the wildly popular Indian Wells Masters (now called the BNP Paribas Open) since 1976, when Björn Borg, Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors competed. When I recently visited the San Diego area, I brought my tennis rackets with me, and between hotel reviews, carved out time to hit the court. Here are a few hotels and facilities I recommend.
STAY AND PLAY
Tucked away in the hills of tony Rancho Santa Fe is Rancho Valencia, one of the top tennis destinations in the world and a favorite hotel of Andrew Harper members. Not only does the 49-casita hotel boast 14 Plexipave and two pristine European clay courts, but it also has a charismatic tennis director in Eduardo Sanchez. He’s been with the hotel since it opened in 1989 and is a boon to the program: His enthusiasm for the game is infectious, and his instruction is excellent. Book private lessons or group clinics with Sanchez or one of the other nine pros. Alternatively, have the pro shop schedule a match for you with another guest or club member.
Park Hyatt Aviara
Steve Halverson, the director of tennis at the recommended Park Hyatt Aviara, calls the tennis facility here his very own Shangri-La. Located down the road from the 327-room hotel, it is surrounded by palm trees and lush gardens filled with birds of paradise. The site offers four hard courts and two Har-Tru clay courts. I had a lesson with Halverson in which he tried to help me perfect Federer’s “squash shot.” That’s still a work in progress, but it was an enjoyable hour nonetheless.