Founded in 1998 by former Spanish touring pros Emilio Sánchez and Sergio Casal, this academy outside Barcelona operates both full-time and short-time academies for juniors as well as training facilities for touring pros. Its "High Performance" programs take a broad approach that goes beyond technique, tactics, fitness, and mental skills by also including periodization and planning, nutrition, equipment services, and specialist coaches. Its campus comprises 27 red-clay, hard, Rebound Ace, and artificial grass courts as well as padel tennis courts, a fitness center, tennis lab (for viewing videos), jogging tracks, swimming pools, a restaurant (with food choices sensitive to a broad variety of nationalities), and a dormitory. During the academic year, about 130 students are enrolled full time—either living in dorms on campus or locally with their own or host families—representing 35 nationalities. With so much diversity, all of the teaching is by necessity conducted in English.
"We used to have top players," Sergio Casal told me when I toured the facility, referring to such bold-face tennis names as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic, Grigor Dmitrov, Garabiñe Muguruza, and others, who have spent extended periods training there. "But now we are working with the base," he continued. There are two short-term programs, which can be booked in increments of a week: one that runs year-round, a second in summer, both with language study as part of the curriculum. Essentially, campers spend three-plus hours/day on tennis, another one-plus hours on fitness. "Our theory is the body and the brain don't support operating more than three hours of court, at least not every day." For those enrolled longer term, the hours devoted to tennis remains the same, but the curriculum expands to include classes at the international school established at the academy and based on the American system. "Our philosophy is to play tennis and to study. In one location a player has all the tools to be better."
"Everyone is trains on the same system; a way to move, a way to defend, a way to recover," Casal explained. "Clay forces you to become fitter and mentally stronger. The points are long and you have to get used to that be competitive and to win. It's essential to be good on the baseline, but beyond that we teach you how to play in every area of the court." From his perspective, training on clay produces a much more rounded competitor: "We can produce more complete players because you cannot rely so easily on a big weapon."
For campers enrolled longer term, the routine is broken up by tournaments, either at the academy itself, in nearby Barcelona, or farther afield. One advantage to this location is that there are so many tournaments in the region (much of their academic work in online so they can keep up even when on the road).
Casal himself is not just a name on the sign at the entrance. "I like to spend time on the court," he told me. "I can help much more on court than in the office. I can express my feeling and help them more. I can impart my experience. I like to play with the kids."
Rates and Reservations
The rates below, in Euros, are for the weekly and summer camps. Resident rates include tennis instruction, lodging, all meals, laundry service, activities, and Internet access; Day rates include tennis instruction and lunch.
June 22-Aug. 31, 2016
Resident: €1,550-€1,670/week. Day: €1,090-€1,200/week
Autovia de Castelldefels (C-31), km. 190 El Prat de Llobregat, 08820 Spain
+34 93 479 16 16 Fax: +34 93 479 16 17 Web Link: Academia Sánchez-Casal
Here's what others have had to say about Academia Sánchez-Casal.
"Staff is very professional, from the shuttle driver to the head coach. This is the place to learn the Spanish Method which focus on movement and fitness. My daughter had a great time and learned a lot from very attentive and knowledgeable coaches. They provided a detailed written assessment of my daughters strengths and weaknesses. Great location, very close to the International airport (10 minutes by taxi). Shuttle is available for pickup and drop-off to major centers in Barcelona. Had a chance to chat with one of the founders, Sergio Casal, who was playing in the next court where my daughter played. Very friendly and down to earth which reflects the rest of the staff in the academy and camp."—C.P., Adv., July 2016
""—S.C., Int., April 2016
"Pros: Great coaches, family environment, professional, impressive facilities
Cons: Away from city center, need own transportation"—A.D., Adv. Int., April 2016
""—J.D., Int., April 2016
""—N.Q., Adv., April 2016
""—X.F., Int., April 2016
"Worst tennis experience ever!
Firstly it's a battle trying to book - no one replies to emails, when you phone it's always someone else who you need to speak to and they're not there. The third time we tried to book (not lucky) we succeeded (the day before our trip, after weeks of calls & emails!).
Accommodation - our son, 13, wanted to stay with us so we tried to establish what the onsite accommodation comprised. Again, little information available, no photos, just 'its nice' from someone on the end of the phone. We said we'll try it. Big mistake!
Upon arrival the taxi driver drops you in a car park, no signs to tell you where to go, no one to greet you. Instead you take a guess at the direction and lug all your luggage in 35 degree heat down a long walkway (the first part gravel). You go in the big building and there's a desk with a woman sat at it. No smiles, no welcome, no offer of a drink or help with luggage. Just told to wait 10 minutes for someone to check us in.
Once they've got your credit card swiped they take you to a shed which is supposed to be for you to stay in! Completely wooden paneled like a sauna inside with 2 mdf strips against a wall for a bed! We walked straight back out and ordered a taxi to the nearest hotel. When I asked for a refund on the accommodation I was told there's a 2 night minimum cancellation charge! Unbelievable!
The tennis was utterly rubbish! We have been to Bollittieri (excellent) and La Manga (ok) but this was the standard of an average local tennis club back home. The kids spent 5 hours a day hitting balls to each other, there was no structure to the program, the coaches showed little interest, one sat smoking by the pool every lunchtime. Ratio of one coach per 8 kids, not good, especially when 2 coaches had a chat together leaving 16 kids to get on with it. One good coach that was there was leaving at the end of the week. They were told to play tiebreaks against each other or games such as champions. All basic holiday camp stuff, not what we signed up for. Luckily the kids that were there were a pretty good standard (not being regulars there!) so at the very least they were hitting against decent players.
The 'fitness' sessions were a joke, just playing games like dodgeball, not a professional fitness session at all. There was no strength & conditioning all week. Half the kids were picking up injuries every morning. Not sure if this was through lack of decent warm up or if they just wanted to sit out as it was so tedious.
The food was basic cheap stuff. Nothing organic or natural here! We came to Sanchez with a view to sending our son here full time... we'll never be going back!"—C.B., Adv., September 2012
"This past summer I took my 13 year old tennis player to Spain to study at the Sanchez Academy in Barcelona. We had some expectations about the tennis and the place which were fueled by their web site and sales team. We were familiar with camps and coaches here in the states but my son wanted to play on clay and get more comfortable playing in Europe and to see what the level of play was at the 12's and 14's.
The entire experience was disappointing. There was no welcome to speak of, nobody every bothered to learn anyones name or have the young new students feel "comfortable". The instructors were always changing and so nobody was able to follow my son or his progress. I even doubt anyone really knew where he was at anytime. The supervision of the young people did not make me feel at ease and so I was happy that I was there with him and I was also happy we choose to stay at a hotel. Many instructors had such low energy on the court that I could not believe that this was such a top rated academy. Some instructors were SO uninspiring that it appeared as if they liked balls to be picked up at the slowest speed possible! Well, all in all it was a cold and a poor tennis experience and a poor "camp" experience which resulted in my having a candid dialogue about the lack of hospitably, the lack of excellence in the tennis program, the poor management and the "mill" like feeling that permeated the place.
So, I had had enough after the second day and decided to go up the hill to Brugueras Top Team Academy. It was great as we (both) felt welcomed, they took interest in the students, there was good energy on the court and it was a good week! In addition, the people were nice, the drills and the tennis were excellent and the class size was small (2-3). We stayed the balance of the week there, and we were very happy!"—C.S., November 2010
"My wife, children (ages 13 and 9) and I attended the Academia in Barcelona, July 2008. We rented an apartment in Barcelona and joined the clinics each day. If you love tennis "boot camps" and want to combine a family holiday to spain with tennis this is a good choice.
The academia is located near the Barcelona airport. They have 20+ courts (half clay), two fitness facilities, pool, paddle tennis, beach volley ball, restaurant etc. A competitor to Boleteri and Saddlebrook this Academia is designed for children. In July their were close to 400 children attending a week camp (many were boarding). Our children attended from 8AM to 8PM and received tennis instruction for 5 hours/day.
My wife and I went for 3 hours a day. 2 hours of tennis and 1 hour of physical fitness. Instruction was good. Lot's of balls and drills. Particular focus was placed on foot work and movement on clay. The adult classes had a ratio of 3 to 1, and the children had a ratio of 4-6 to 1.
Surprisingly my favorite aspect of the academia was the personal training. The instructor taught my wife and I a lot of new stretching the strength training technics which were tailored for tennis.
We've been to Saddlebrook, John Gardner's, Nike Tennis camps and a dozen resorts. We still think Saddlebrook is the best "boot camp" but this one is good. So if you are taking the family to Europe you should consider it. If your kid's want to go away for a tennis camp it is also a good choice."—S.R., Adv. Int., July 2009