By Ana Gabriela Ribeiro, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the passion that Cariocas have for the beach, and for sports, beach tennis has invaded the sands of Rio’s beaches as an energetic and addictive alternative. The sport is drawling athletes and fans to the professional level, as well as a recreational play with equal appeal.
Historically speaking, the sport was started more than two decades ago in Ravena, Italy (began in eighties) and was standardized in Brazil in 1995 by the I.F.B.T. creation (International Federation of Beach Tennis).
Recently it had the help of Gian Luca Padovin and Adão Chaves, members of AJB (Associaçao de Jogadores de Beach Tennis), founded in 2011 to spread the “mania” all over the Carioca’s beaches.
The game is played individually or in pairs, and is like tennis but with different rules as it is hard to make a ball bounce on sand. One hit per team and the points are scored when the ball hits outside the lines or touches the ground. The sport is played with specially designed paddles and depressurized tennis balls which make it easier to keep a rally going.
It is in front of Vieira Souto 500, one of the well known beach tennis clubs, where the number one Brazilian team, Vinicius Fontes and Guilherme Prata, and Tatiana Kelab (ex volley teacher and now beach tennis teacher) talked about this increasing new Carioca sporting craze with The Rio Times.
Vinicius Fontes (27), who started as a tennis teacher, has been going to world tournaments since 2009. “I have been traveling to many places, like Aruba, Rome and this week we are going to Maurice island and La Reunion Islands to play two stages of the world tournaments,” says Vinicius.
From the first year it started until now, the CBT (Brazilian Tennis Confederation, Beach Tennis department) with ITF (International Tennis Federation) have organized fifteen international tournament stages. “It has been increasing considerably, today there are more than a thousand players in Brazil and 65 world wide tournament stages,” says Guilherme Prata.
But perhaps what has had a bigger impact on the sport is how accessible it is, everyone can play, and there is a significant number of women getting involved. Tatiana Kelab explained what was the reason behind a sudden female interest.
“I started as a volleyball teacher, and it was more of a men’s world. I used to see their girlfriends, wives and friends watching, while they would play volleyball or “Fute” volley, and get tired of looking at them.” Kelab jokes.
“Beach tennis was an alternative because it’s easy to play and have fun. There is a study of a friend of ours which shows that one hour of beach tennis corresponds to a 500 calories loss,” laughs Kelab.
Also she adds, “There is a team spirit, a fair play, that I don’t see in any other sport. Ninety percent of my friends were made playing beach tennis.”
For those who are in town for a few days, they can go to the AJB site to check beach tennis “points” spots and teachers or just go directly and talk to a teacher on the beach. The price is an average of R$70 for a one to one lesson and R$35 for a group lesson which is more into the Beach tennis team spirit.