As Rafael Nadal bids to win his second Wimbledon title today, WILL HIDE heads to Jersey to hone his tennis skills and discover what other attractions the idyllic island has to offer
I LOVE tennis, both watching and playing, but there’s just one problem: I’m completely rubbish at it. I’d like to think I combine Federer’s poise, Nadal’s determination and Murray’s cunning but the last time I won a match was when Andre Agassi had hair.
So with Wimbledon looming, I needed drastic action in the form of some intensive training. Which is how I came to be on Jersey
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The idea was a few days of coaching at Les Ormes, a compact, sports-oriented holiday village popular with families, close to the island’s airport and the lovely sands of St Ouen’s Bay. Mornings would be devoted to tennis and afternoons and evenings to exploring the island and sampling its renowned produce.
Before setting foot on one of Les Ormes’ four indoor courts (there’s also a gym, swimming pool and nine-hole golf course), I checked into my self-catering lodge. Large enough to sleep four, it had a good-sized bedroom with
underfloor-heated bathroom and a living/dining area with flat satellite TV and DVD player.
Bubbling away on the deck was a Jacuzzi, which I knew my muscles, stiff after my exertions, would be grateful for.
Coaching with pro Rychlund Aldridge started with simple forehand practice. This was followed by backhand and serving, with plenty of drills and practical tips, including such basics as how to hold the racket better. Then a
game. Unsurprisingly, I lost. No shame there, as Rychlund has beaten Roger Federer (even if the six-times Wimbledon champion was just 12 at the time).
Two hours passed in a flash and I felt I was making progress, despite a shocking lack of fitness. Want incredible deals to Jersey? Click here now...
Afterwards, I settled down to a well-earned pint of zesty, island-brewed Liberation Ale at contemporary St Mary’s Country Inn, a 10-minute drive away. Here, the mussels with white wine and shallots with fresh Jersey cream and garlic were superb.
This set me up for an afternoon of exploring. Heading north, I nipped along to La Mare Wine Estate to tour its extensive vineyard and sip some pinot noir and a sparkling “Pompette” cider.
Then it was on to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (formerly Jersey Zoo). Its gorillas and orang-utans are great but I fell in love with the smaller residents, especially the ring-tailed lemurs and even the blue poison-dart frog. The next morning back on court I tried not to go all John McEnroe with my foot faults and line calls.
We concentrated on return of serve, volleys and smashes, before putting it all together with another game (another loss, though not by as much). “You’ve got good hand-eye coordination,” Rychlund said. “Now you need to practise and then practise some more.”
That afternoon I headed underground to the Jersey War Tunnels. Situated in a former subterranean hospital in the village of St Lawrence, a 15-minute drive from my base, this attraction provides an audio-visual exhibition about Jersey’s Second World War occupation by the Germans.
Several times a month on summer evenings it shows such war films as The Eagle Has Landed.
FOR SOME post-tennis pampering, for my final night I checked into the elegant, family-owned Atlantic Hotel, which overlooks the 18-hole La Moye golf course near the village of St Brelade. Its main appeal for me was the Michelin-starred Ocean restaurant: Jersey crab and sweetcorn risotto with basil essence was followed by tranche of codling, poached hen’s egg, Jersey Royals, caviar and chive butter. I went to bed a happy man.
I wish I’d had more time on Jersey and my long weekend really should have been a week.
I didn’t get to go walking along the rugged north coast or try surfing (they were doing it here before Cornwall woke up to the sport), kayaking, fishing or sailing.
I whetted my appetite for a return visit though and proved to myself that you can teach an old dog new tricks on court, even if Nadal, Murray and co have little to fear. GETTING THERE: British Airways (0844 493 0758/ www.ba.com/jersey) offers seven nights fly-drive from Gatwick to Jersey from £160pp. Les Ormes (01534 497000/www.lesormes.je) offers seven nights in a self- catering lodge from £499 (sleeps four). Tennis lessons from £26 per hour (groups of up to four people). The Atlantic Hotel (01534 744101/ www.theatlantichotel.com) offers doubles from £100 per night (two sharing), B&B. Jersey Tourism: 01534 448800/www.jersey.com