Padel Tennis In The Sun At Oliva Nova, Spain – Hotel Review
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Padel Tennis In The Sun At Oliva Nova, Spain – Hotel Review

A sun-drenched Spanish getaway with a side of Padel

I went on holiday with my tennis pals and I’m hooked, says Fiona Duncan. Here’s the rundown on Oliva Nova, a high-end sporting resort on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

Hotel Review: Oliva Nova, Spain

Padel courts with palm trees in the background.

A couple of months ago, I played my first ever game of padel, the racquet sport that’s swept the continent, particularly Spain, and is fast taking hold in the UK. My opponent at the Padel Yard in Wandsworth, was Andrew Castle, former British No.1 tennis player and now broadcaster and Wimbledon commentator. He was playing with my friend Lizzie and I was playing with his friend Lucy; Lucy and I beat Andrew and Lizzie six games to four.

‘Fiona must be astonishingly good,’ you might be thinking – or, more accurately, ‘Andrew Castle must be astonishingly kind.’ Indeed, he was, except when shouting ‘MOVE !MOVE’  because both Lizzie and I, deep into middle age, have a habit of expecting the ball to come to us rather than the other way around. Even so, as proved by the score and the heaps of fun we had on the court, padel, a mix of tennis and squash played inside 20 x 10m glass-walled court, is inclusive, it’s sociable and it’s accessible to all in a way that tennis is simply not.

In 20 minutes, both of us were hooked. Lizzie and I love our tennis, with a regular weekly four of many years standing, but had I been playing Andrew Castle at tennis, the score, even allowing for heaps of kindness, would have been far less forgiving, the rallies would have been negligible and the fun would have been minimal. Padel is so much more engaging and less stressful (underarm serve; smaller court; slower ball speed) and so much easier and quicker for young and old alike to learn. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity: the game has far more depth and complexity than is at first apparent and engages the brain as much as the body. It may look like garden swing ball without the rope but there’s a journey, should you care to take it, to brilliance in padel. Just a few lessons from an accredited padel coach will, as I discovered, work wonders for your game.

I do love a girls-only break, especially an active one. Buoyed up by our encounter with Andrew Castle, Lizzie and I decided, along with another tennis partner, Amanda, to learn padel properly, by the sea and in the sun, with good food and wine thrown in. We headed for Oliva Nova, a high-end but good value sporting resort between Alicante and Valencia on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Here, Game4Padel, leading British padel court providers (with investors who include tennis players Andy Murray and Annabel Croft, footballers Jamie Vardy and Virgil van Dijk and rugby legend Jonathan Davies) have built a padel centre with seven state-of-the-art courts. Growing up in the digital age as padel is, that means on-court cameras so you can analyse your play afterwards and, should you wish, post Instagram clips of yourself in action. It also means easy online booking, floodlights, bars, music and often a party atmosphere.

Hotel bedroom with white linens, white walls and cream accents.

How did the game develop? Mexican businessman Enrique Corcuera is credited with padel’s inception, building himself a court in 1969. An aristocratic Spanish friend of his took the concept to Spain, but to begin with it remained an exclusive sport, with a handful of courts in places like the Marbella Club. In the last few years, however, the sport has broken free of its elitist shackles and spread rapidly. The entrepreneurs behind Game4Padel predict an increase to 1,000 courts from the current 350 in a couple of years, growing to as much as 20,000 eventually (there are currently 15,000 in Spain). They have partnered with training company Padelmba to ensure that proper training for players and coaches is available at their padel centres, such as the Padel Yard, Broxbourne Sports Club in Hertfordshire and Thistle Padel Club in Edinburgh.

Here’s a statistic: in one hour of padel, the ball is in play for an average of 52 minutes, compared to 15 minutes of tennis. A game for four players, it’s fun, fast and furious but to get the most out of it, you need to learn how use the back glass wall and understand the chess-like positions you can take around the court to outwit your opponents, otherwise, if you play it as if it were a game of tennis (it is scored in exactly the same way) you are liable to eventually lose interest. That’s where coaching – available at Oliva Nova – comes in.

Our coach, James Rose, a professional tennis player now also hooked on padel, was kind, patient and funny. ‘Look at my coaching!’ he shouted triumphantly when we hit killer shots, whooping with excitement. His wife, Abbie, proves what an inclusive and sociable sport padel can be: her weekly Breakfast Club now attracts a large bunch of ex-pats to the courts at Oliva Nova, most of whom, including Abbie, had never played racquet sports before.

There are other advantages to learning padel at Oliva Nova. The hotel is fringed by a huge, wild, unspoilt beach backed by dunes; it has a lovely pool and wellness centre; the food across the resort is very good; amongst its sporting facilities (including training grounds for top football, rugby and cycling teams) it has an 18-hole golf course and a world-class equestrian centre where you can watch top show-jumping competitions whilst eating and drinking in the sun alongside owners and riders who are as immaculately turned out as their vastly expensive horses.

Time expands when you are having fun. Our three-day trip to Spain felt like a fortnight. We returned refreshed, relaxed and exercised and we now play regularly at the Padel Yard in Wandsworth, winding down afterwards at the bar. We’ve just about mastered the back wall, we trick our opponents with clever shots in empty spaces, we know that to win you have to gain the net, we lob and volley, cheer and swear. Padel is the best fun I’ve had at any sport ever and Oliva Nova was the perfect place to learn it. Next time I play him, Andrew Castle can be a little nastier to me if he wants.

Aerial view of Olivo Nova's rooftop terrace, with swimming pools below.

BOOK IT

A three-night break at Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort with Active Away costs from £320 per person, including breakfast, in a Classic Double Room, and one hour of professional padel coaching per day. Further coaching is available on request. olivanova.com | activeaway.com

Fiona Duncan travelled return from London Gatwick to Alicante, with a carbon footprint of 443kg CO2e.