Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica Resort Tennis Courts
Raw nature: howler monkeys in bounding troops; a green flash of screeching parrots that dips and soars overhead; surrounding wilderness of ancient tropical growth. This is Peninsula Papagayo.
The cutting edge of civilized sport: tennis on flawlessly groomed grass and clay courts; damp, lemon-scented, chilled cloths brought by a uniformed attendant; a Peter Burwash International pro to enrich your game. This is also Peninsula Papagayo. Welcome to a deeply gratifying encounter with primitive elegance.
Whether you are a beginning, intermediate or advanced player, learning in this exquisite setting will enhance your performance. Peter Burwash International, which manages Four Seasons and other resort and club courts from Hawaii to Hong Kong, has sent Jean-Francois Robitaille to oversee our tennis program. “Court management” includes developing a teaching curriculum, equipment set-up for the pre-teen set, offering private lessons and clinics year-round, and overseeing court maintenance.
Jean-Francois, or JF, as he likes to be called, comes to us with a fitting pedigree: playing since the age of ten, by 18, he ranked third in his home province of Quebec. After graduating from Stonybrook College on a tennis scholarship in 2006, he joined Peter Burwash International. He’s been a PBI pro in South Hampton, Long Island, at the American Club in Singapore and at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, where Roger Federer sometimes trains. For the last three Festive Seasons, JF traveled to Costa Rica to provide his expertise here at Peninsula Papagayo. Now he’s with us for the long term.
The day is warm and sunny. Yellow and orange butterflies flitter around the court and disappear into the foliage. Birds twitter nearby. An attendant brings a tray of iced water in glasses, rolled towels and a box of tissues, which he deposits on a table in the shade. During the hour, he returns three times with chilled, lemon-scented damp cloths to refresh the players.
In a clinic of five adults (three women and two men), JF starts them off with a warm-up, sending balls over the net in a steady stream. When the balls are exhausted, players and pro collect them, take a drink and dry-off break, exchange a few friendly words, and switch sides. JF encourages, with calls of, “Go in, go in!” “Great shot!” “Careful, careful,” and “Backhand!” He gives instruction on approaching the baseline, and on holding the racket in a double-handed grip for a strong return.
On the second round it’s two strokes per player, typically one to the forehand, the next to their backhand. The instruction increases: “Stay behind the baseline. You’ll have more time to react.” “Good sequence!” “Extend forward from the shoulders!” “Everybody warmed up?” A series of “Yep’s,” and it’s more drying off and drinking in the shade.
They split up and play doubles, and then it’s three against three with JF joining first one side and then the other. Finally, they play for points and the sense of excitement and visible signs of skill level are palpable. The volleys increase in length and intensity; the points mount up. They’re competing, making points, whooping, giving high-fives. This is what the game is all about. Except here, it’s just more beautiful. Sun and shadows play on the surrounding jungle. Everywhere is thickly green tropical forest. You’re at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. It really doesn’t get much more spectacular.
During the high season, November to April, clinics are given five days a week: Monday, Cardio Tennis, with the emphasis on more movement; Tuesday, Doubles Strategy; Wednesday, Ground Strokes; Thursday, Intro to Tennis; and Friday, Advanced Drill. During the low season, courts are closed Mondays.
As with everything overseen by the Four Seasons Resort, the courts at Peninsula Papagayo are maintained to the highest standards. Water content in both grass and “Har-Tru” clay courts are monitored and adjusted to keep the surfaces just right. Clay court fees are $35 per hour; $17.50 per half hour. Lessons are $95 per hour, $55 per half hour, with clinics $35 per hour. For those wishing to play Lawn Tennis, the court is open every day from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The grass court fee is $50 per hour. A ball machine can be rented for $50 per hour with racquet stringing available for $40 per racquet.