Over the past couple of years – Carroll & I have put together creative retreats, tennis retreats and more recently Surfer’s Journey retreats. We have been fortunate to partner with art therapists, authors, doctors, tennis pro’s and fitness gurus.

We tend to travel a few times a year to look for inspiration and freshen up our tennis game at the same time. About a year ago we accomplished a bucket list item that was pretty big. We wanted to hit all 4 majors in the tennis world in order – the same calendar year. We wanted to have our own “grand-slam”. Imagine the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon & the US open in a matter of 8 months.

It turned out to be an amazing year full of inspiration & passion. It’s amazing to come back and sit down together and complete a vision board and put our goals on paper. It all seemed to just flow as we saw more dreams – some pretty big stretches finding themselves on our list of goals. The vision board we look at everyday. The list of goals gets tucked away and we review them about once a year.

One thing that came out of our “Grand-Slam” experience is that we really do love the red clay. Both playing on it and watching the tennis professionals compete with everything they have. The French Open is our favorite major for many reasons….. but one reason for sure is the surface. Everything seems to slow down in the red dirt. (OK – being in the most Romantic city might be another good reason to make the French Open our favorite)

Over the last year we have played on the red clay in Brazil , NYC, Nosara and now Italy!

Over an Italian cup of coffee one morning Carroll and I talked about starting to hit the smaller red clay tournaments and playing tennis while we traveled to those places… creating true tennis holidays. Wouldn’t you know – a couple months later a friend of ours (the tennis pro in Nosara) suggested we go to the Monte Carlo Open. We looked at each other and said Yeeeeeeeeessssssss. Not only did we put it out there over coffee one morning- but apparently we delegated it too!!! Harry worked with a travel agent friend of his and put together the most amazing 12 day tennis vacation ever.

We arrived at our hotel in Menton, France – a beautiful town on the Mediterranean. Menton is 15 minutes west of Monte Carlo and about 25 minutes East of SanRemo, Italy. 

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The next day we had to get out and play tennis- so 4 of us including Harry left the hotel and drove to Solara tennis club in San Remo, Italy. We walked into the clubhouse and the first thing we saw were some old photographs on the wall of some of today’s best tennis players. They were photographs of Djokovic & Cilic in their teens. We soon found out that Fognini grew up playing in SanRemo too. So for the next two hours the 4 of us played competitive tennis on the same red clay courts that some of our favorite tennis players spent hours competing before their professional years.

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We played two more days of tennis and loved every minute of it. We improved some of our game and just played on the most incredible surface as if we too were competing like those that came before us. A rite of passage before we attended the clay tournament in Monaco. 

So Monday morning we left the hotel knowing for the next 3 days we would have incredible seats in a stadium that had no bad seats !! It’s hard to explain how incredible it all was. Just imagine being invited to the king of Monaco’s private club to watch the most amazing tennis. Did I mention the weather was about 68 degrees, the stadium kind of looks like it’s built inside a castle against a cliff that faces the Mediterranean and a few amazing yacht clubs? This tournament is all men with 10 of the top 20 Men playing. We arrived 45 minutes early. as if it were natural instinct – we headed for the practice courts to see the tennis gods warm up before their matches. We saw Djokovic on one court and he looked ready as the current # 1 should. A few minutes later the trumpets sounded as Nadal entered the practice courts that we stood maybe 30 feet away. This is the red clay God that everyone comes to see. He has 10 French Open titles and many more titles on the clay between Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. He looked good- real good.

We headed over to our seats at 11:00am to begin our first day of 4 matches. They paraded these champions in one by one. We watched 4 great matches. 8 of the top tennis players on the planet. Djokovic , Nadal, Thiem , Cilic, Zverev And Fognini were some of the greats we saw those first few days. over the first 3 days we saw 12 matches- ranging from #1 to top #10 and some wild cards too. We saw the new comer – 18 year old sensation from Canada “Felix”!

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During the few days away from the tournament we snuck in some great mid evil villages and even a nice trip up to Serena Williams coach’s academy where we saw many students – some real young – others in the juniors programs. What an incredible facility. During those days we spent a couple more mornings in the Italian Riviera playing tennis in San Remo and having fun dinners.

Sunday we were back in Monte Carlo for the doubles championship and singles matches. We were mostly unplugged during the week accept for the tennis app on our iPhones that kept us updated to the progress of the tournament. Usually by 5:30pm we would find the one wine / tapas bar that paid for the tennis channel and watch whatever match might have a set left. What was wild was how the tournament progressed. Many of the top 10 players were eliminated. Djokovic , Thiem, Zverev, Nishikori and Cilic were eliminated by under dogs but played hard to the end.

On day one I was impressed with Fognini. Maybe it’s the Italian connection. Maybe it’s his passion and sometimes entertaining drama on the courts. Maybe it was the fact that we were playing tennis on the same courts he grew up on. Whatever it was- a story was developing & I felt it. I am a fan. What I didn’t know was the list of men he would have to defeat to make it to the semis where he would face the clay court God – Nadal. I routed for him as he defeated Goliath in 2 sets and found himself advancing to the championship match on Sunday. 

Well the first championship match was doubles. This was incredibly interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One because they played “no add” and two because it’s the game that I tend to play both with Carroll and with the guys at the club.  And I guess the obvious reason is that the conditions today were very difficult. The wind was 15-18 knots. Strong gusts of wind that seemed to really effect the game. The serves were adjusted by the toss being not as high & the contact further into the court. It was interesting to see these guys adjust their games for a very difficult condition. The match ended in a tie break that went 8-10. It was amazing. 

Now for the men’s single championship Match. Fognini was to play an upcoming man from Serbia. Lajovic is about 10 years younger with much less time in the big leagues than Fognini. Younger – maybe stronger… but not as passionate as Fognini. The Match was a great match. Fognini winning in two sets. Fognini fought hard as both men tried to outsmart the other on the red clay. 

After the match Fognini blew a kiss to his mother and wished her a happy birthday. What an amazing story. What an amazing finish. So happy for Fognini & his family. 

Oh wait- the story is not quite over. The next day we headed back to the tennis courts in Italy to play one more day of tennis. The conditions were just like the day before on Monte Carlo. Strong winds. This was the first time I had to adjust my game on the clay as the gusts would pick up the dirt occasionally and get in your eyes. I now understood much better what the professional tennis players had to face that day during the championship match. The following day we took a road trip to Saint Tropez and stopped at a winery in Provence on the way back. The winery also had a goat farm & made goat cheese from the 50 goats that lived there. 

What an amazing tennis holiday. 5 days playing on the red clay & 4 days attending the most amazing tournament in Monte Carlo. Does it get any better than that? 

Maybe ….. we are doing tennis retreats at Jade. Working with Harry the tennis pro at a couple of local tennis clubs in Nosara. (One is just a 10min walk on a dirt jungle path from Jade). Both clubs have red clay courts (one also has hard courts). Honestly – the Pacific Ocean is about 30 degrees warmer than the Mediterranean. You can surf everyday on the best waves and we bring in fitness gurus and art therapy too.