I Played Tennis With the Pros at This Bahamas Resort — and Left With Much More Than a Better Backhand

Boarding my flight to the Bahamas, I inconspicuously scanned the other guests, trying to tell if anyone else was bound for a tennis tournament and lessons at Baha Mar. I signed up a gaggle of already-tipsy sweethearts, a retired couple clutching hands securely, and a foursome who looked athletic however held purses and backpacks, not rackets.

As a kid, I went to basketball or soccer camp in Atlanta every summer– an experience that left me keenly conscious of my outsider status (my family lived in Singapore and China throughout the school year). Now, a freshly minted tennis reporter welcomed to cover a tournament at Baha Mar, I felt awkwardly alone. I was also newly married; this would be my very first solo trip since moving in with Alejandro, a Venezuelan author who shared my love of food, books, and travel.

At summer season camp in Atlanta, my sis and I would be met by a coach who would bark out our last names and appoint us to a spartan dormitory. But at the Rosewood Baha Mar, a beaming receptionist greeted me like I was Serena Williams and handed me a perfectly balanced gin cocktail. When I entered my ocean-view space on the seventh flooring, any residual worry melted into giddy happiness. The decoration was an ode to the island, from the cane-and-hemp chairs to the cloudlike bedding. Through the windows, I might see the hotel grounds, an explosion of palm trees, and the sea, which glittered a beautiful cerulean. I wasn’t simply on a tennis journey, I realized.
I was on a honeymoon with myself.
Aerial view of an irregularly shaped swimming pool at a hotel resort
At the competition kickoff celebration that night I mingled with other individuals, consisting of Elissa Polls, an intermediate gamer like me, who had actually flown in from California. I likewise fulfilled Victoria, Jessica, and Andy– a group of slightly more advanced players. Slightly. Reader, I was socializing with none aside from top-ranked U.S. players Victoria Azarenka and Jessica Pegula, and the Andy Roddick. Elissa and I attempted not to drop our Proseccos as Azarenka and Pegula started an intense video game of Ping-Pong and Marcus Samuelsson (the star chef, who has a brand-new dining establishment at Baha Mar) offered James Blake (retired ATP champ and ESPN commentator) a high five.
Supper that night, at Café Boulud the Bahamas, began with tuna tataki– the very first bite of which made me angry. Came the seafood risotto, a parsley-green bed of arborio rice with just the best quantity of bite, on which nestled tender pieces of lobster, clam, calamari, and scallop.

As I strolled to the tennis courts the next early morning, nevertheless, reality set in again, and my hands started to shake. Pro-am tournaments set specialists with beginners for a series of short doubles games. I get worried playing league matches in Austin; how in the world was I supposed to look down Andy Roddick’s serve? Thankfully, a center run by the personnel of the Cliff Drysdale– led racquet club was packed with hotel visitors who had actually registered for the competition package. We mere mortals cheered each other on, and “Cliffy,” as the popular South African pro is nicknamed, used each of us indispensable pointers. He offered a genius idea for my backhand, provided with all the generosity of a svelte Santa Claus.

I initially got a tennis racket 4 years ago, and became completely addicted during the pandemic. But I started trash-talking as quickly as I was old sufficient to hold a basketball, thanks to my dad, who played at Georgia Tech. At the Baha Mar tournament, I chose I would try and mask my terror with bluster. Stepping up to the baseline to serve, I cried, “You ‘d much better back up, Marcus,” to the famous chef. (I end up serving the ball in the incorrect box, almost hitting James Blake, who joked that he was the one who ought to actually have actually backed up.).

A few matches later, after winning a point with a greatly hit volley, I informed Pegula, in an act of deeply misdirected bravado, to “simply call me Coco” (Pegula’s indomitable doubles partner). She generously smiled rather of rolling her eyes.

Later, at the exhibition match, the pros played and ridiculed one another, to the crowd’s pleasure. When Mark Knowles called a ball out, Roddick yelled, “I saw how far you were holding the menu from your face last night. There’s no other way you might see if that ball was in.” And when Pegula and Blake faced a young Bahamian group, the crowd cheered loudly for the next generation.

The weekend flew by, a delirious whirl of exceptional food (Samuelsson’s Marcus at the Baha Mar Fish & Chop House was particularly transcendent), cabana lounging, flamingo gawking, and revitalizing deep-tissue massages. (The latter offered brand-new significance to Billie Jean King’s well-known saying, “Pressure is a privilege.”).
My final morning, I walked through the Baha Mar Racquet Club’s pristine grounds, relishing the sight of tropical yellow blossoms next to intense green courts, and waved at new good friends I ‘d satisfied at one of the club’s numerous tennis clinics. (Hotel guests can easily schedule courts, clinics, and private and group lessons through the racquet club.).

A few hours before my flight, Bahamian coach Kevaughn Ferguson provided two dazzling insights on my forehand that had balls zinging off my racket in such a way that definitely would have frightened Azarenka. Ah, well: there’s constantly next year.

” I’ve missed you,” Alejandro stated when I called him in Miami. “I can’t wait to have you home.”.

Simply as I had discovered to love overhead smashes on the tennis court after fearing them for the first few months, I had a new sense of delighting in solo adventures, whether at home or abroad. It didn’t harm that Blake, sitting in very first class with his household, provided me a friendly nod as I headed back to my seat in the main cabin.

Held each December, the Baha Mar Cup raises funds for a local children’s tennis charity. The Stay and Play Pro-Am package, which includes 2 nights at the Rosewood, entry into the Pro-Am tournament, four VIP tickets to exhibit matches, 2 hours of clinics, and more, is $8,000. Bespoke tennis trips can also be set up throughout the year with the racquet club, which provides personal lessons and group centers.

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