This month tennis coaches Adam Brown and Mike Martin embark on two trips out to Spain with a number of Scottish juniors from their coaching programme. Their first trip was a visit to Majorca where they trained at the famous Vilas Tennis Academy and also had the opportunity to attend the WTA Mallorca Open.
Adam reports -
“Last year I was lucky enough to win some free tickets from Tennis Scotland to the newly formed WTA Mallorca Open and had the opportunity to bring some of the players from my programme along to the event, which acts as a warm up to Wimbledon. It was such a great and worthwhile experience, that this year I decided to do it all again.
This year I teamed up with Mike Martin again who is the Highlands District coach. Over the past 5 years we have combined to do over 20 trips across the UK and Ireland and now Spain. For me growing up, my best memories were going away as a team for tournaments and it was from these events that I felt I learned the most. As a coach I also think you learn a lot about your players. Tennis is a lot about problem solving and finding solutions when you are out on the court and there is nobody to help you. So we always ask the players to take responsibility for themselves and their belongings. For example looking after their own passport, carrying their bags, budgeting with their money and filling up their drinks bottles amongst other things!
Saturday 17th June
It was a bright an early start with a 6.45am meet at Edinburgh Airport. We had 15 girls on the trip aged 10-16yrs who were mega excited. The first job was packing all the racquets and toiletries in to two carry-on bags, which is always a mission. Once packed up there were a few teary goodbyes before navigating through security and boarding the flight.
After a comfortable flight we were met by our driver at the other side, who transported us to our apartments which were located in Palma Nova. We dumped our stuff and walked up to the Guillermo Vilas Academy which was our training base for our trip. All our meals were included at the Academy which made things a lot easier for us. After a quick lunch it was time to get on court and meet the coaches and start the first session.
The first training session required the girls to be split over 4 courts into groups of 3 or 4 with a coach on each court. The temperature was 35 degrees which made playing pretty tough. The sessions mainly involved the coach’s hand feeding and working on footwork patterns, all of which are essential when playing on clay courts. After two hours of tennis the girls then did an hour of fitness training which involved numerous laps of the centre as well as some circuits and then some stretches. Once the session was finished the girls took to the pool to cool down, as it had been a long day.
Sunday 18th June
After an early night the girls were ready to go again this morning. As trips go this was one of the more relaxing ones for us coaches. We had all our transport and meals sorted, and the hotel was within walking distance of the academy. We put a lot of focus on the off court stuff and preparing to play - So sun tan lotion and drinking plenty of water were essential.
On the Sunday we were on court from 10am-noon at the academy. The sessions were quite similar but with more of an emphasis on point construction and building the point. The coaches were pretty relentless and pushed the players hard.
In the afternoon we had the choice of practicing between ourselves at the Academy or having some time off. As the weather had been so hot we decided on the latter. Last year in the afternoon we took to the local Water Park (with me being the only one brave enough to take on the white knuckle slide) but this year with it being so hot we just took to the pool in the hotel. On these trips Mike and I’s job is always trying to find the right balance between tennis and other fun activities. I’m notoriously classed as the boring coach while Mike is classed as the fun one! We even had a bit of time to relax ourselves.
Sunday evening did bring one final surprise. We (Mike) decided to join in with the hotel activities evening which was karaoke. There was some excellent renditions, with Rachael Wilson, Annie Webster and Rosie Woodward doing a great version of Firework by Katy Perry.
Monday 19th June
With the players a bit more acclimatised, we felt they should be able to cope with a double training session. The morning session was much the same as previous days, focussing on hand feeding and footwork patters with the coaches working the players hard. The session also included an hours fitness which the girls found tough but showed great resilience to battle through.
The girls also had a treat on Monday as Angelique Kerber the world number 1 was training at Vilas on the hard court. She had withdrawn from the Birmingham WTA event that day injured and was just having a light training session with her coach. We were lucky enough to get a quick snap of her with Rosie, Annie and Rachael.
Monday evening we had a matchplay session with some of the other girls that train at the Academy. As coaches it was great to see the girls putting in to practice some of the things they had picked up over the last couple of days. The session finished with a final (which involved Zoe Eriksen and a Spanish girl) and a 3rd and 4th playoff (which involved Kim Johnstone).
On the short walk back to the hotel there is a famous ice cream shop. The girls had worked so hard during the day, so we allowed them (and the coaches) a well-deserved treat!
Tuesday 20th June
Everybody was really looking forward to going to the WTA Mallorca Open. There had also been rumours that Rafa Nadal had been practicing on the grass courts there after withdrawing from Queens. Our transport picked us up at 10.30am and we were at the venue for 11am for the first round of matches.
After arriving, we saw that one practice court was a lot busier than the rest, so we all raced over to find Rafael Nadal on court with his coach Carlos Moya and Toni Nadal. We watched them practice for over an hour which was a great experience. Afterwards a number of the girls got his autograph.
Throughout the day we managed to watch many great matches. We saw Eugenie Bouchard, Sabine Lisicki, Catherine Bellis, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Garcia, Victoria Azarenka, Martina Hingis among others. Because the crowds are not too big at these events the spectators get a real close up view of the players as well as access to the practice courts. I always find it interesting to watch the practice courts and see what the players are doing. Catherine Bellis for example had a really tough match against world number 23 Carla Suarez Navarro which she came through 6-3 7-5. She then went straight from the match court on to the practice court for half an hour more, working on two or three areas of her game that she didn’t think worked that well for her in the match. This shows the dedication these players have to the game.
The girls had a great time at the tennis and got many autographs and learned a lot from the day. Kim Johnstone, one of the girls on the trip from Inverness said “It was great to get so close to so many top players and watch them compete. We were lucky enough to watch so many top players in action. I was really impressed with young American Cici Bellis who beat Navarro in the opening match. She was so quick around court and had an amazing backhand”.
Wednesday 21st June
We returned home early Wednesday morning. The trip had been a great experience for the girls. Learning to play on clay, training with a high intensity in intense heat, and learning to look after themselves on and off the court were all valuable learning experiences for the girls.
For Coach Mike and myself, we were just home for two days, before leaving on Friday 23rd June for our second trip out to Spain, this time with 30 players."
We are thrilled to hear that all the players thoroughly enjoyed themselves and have taken away alot from the trip.
Main Photo - Players with the Coaches from Vilas Tennis Academy