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Spain, An Ace Place for Tennis

In Spain, tennis is inevitably associated with the country's leading player, Rafael Nadal. With 14 Grand Slam wins – including a record nine French Open titles – and two Olympic gold medals to his name, he is considered to be the best clay-court tennis player in history.

Nadal aside, Spain's famous clay courts have produced a number of international tennis stars, including Manuel Orantes, Manolo Santana, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moyá, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario and Conchita Martínez, the country's second most successful tennis player.

Furthermore, there have been more than 10 Spanish players in the top 100 of the ATP World Rankings at the same time on several occasions this century, while Garbiñe Muguruza is another current Spanish Grand Slam winner. Indeed, even Britain's Andy Murray owes some of his development to the Spanish tennis culture, having trained in the country as a teenager.

Most tennis courts in Spain are outdoor clay courts, although hard courts are also not uncommon. Clubs throughout the country help promote the organisation of tennis tournaments through the Royal Spanish Tennis Federation (known in Spanish as the Real Federación Española de Tenis, or RFET).

While it is sometimes possible to obtain special passes and/or hire courts by the hour, at many clubs you have to be a member to play. This tends to restrict club tennis to a certain minority. Fortunately, hotels and campsites increasingly include tennis courts among their facilities.

The most prestigious tennis club in Spain is in Barcelona. The Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona has served as a launchpad for some of the most successful international tennis players and plays host to the historic Barcelona Open, where the Conde de Godó Trophy has been contested since 1953.

However, Barcelona is far from the only destination to watch tennis in Spain. This is because the Madrid Open is among the top tournaments on both the men's and women's professional circuits, for which it respectively has ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory status. It takes place at the spectacular Caja Mágica (Magic Box) venue, usually at the beginning of May.

There is also a WTA event held on grass in Majorca, the island where Nadal was born and still lives. In addition, ATP Challenger tournaments – which, though somewhat less illustrious, are easier to get tickets for and cheaper, and can be a good place to spot rising stars – are staged in Seville and Segovia.

Nadal with the Conde de Godó Trophy
Nadal with the Conde de Godó Trophy

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