Like a number of players on the ITF Beach Tennis Tour, tennis runs through Petros Baghdatis’ blood. The 33-year-old Cypriot grew up with the sport, played Davis Cup by BNP Paribas alongside his two brothers, Marinos and established ATP professional Marcos, and now works as a tennis coach in his native Cyprus.
When he discovered Beach Tennis, however, Baghdatis found an outlet for his competitive desire that put an even broader smile on his face.
“It’s more fun than tennis,” grins the affable Cypriot when asked what it was about the sport that appeals to him. “You play in the summer, you’re out in the heat, around water and you’re on the beach. You have more fun on the sand than on the tennis court.”
It’s not all fun and games though. On the beach, Baghdatis retains the competitive edge that has served him well on the tennis court. He is currently ranked just outside the top 100 in the ITF Beach Tennis rankings but while he takes every match - and indeed tournament - seriously, one thing he particularly enjoys about the sport is the camaraderie between competitors that extends beyond the formalities of a handshake pre and post-duel like in tennis.
“While I think there’s respect in tennis, there’s much more respect between players in Beach Tennis,” says Baghdatis. “Every time you cross over at change of ends in Beach Tennis you put your hand out to the opposition players whereas in tennis you never shake hands with the players until the match is over. It’s nice and I think it makes the sport more fun.
“There are a lot of people who see this sport as their job. They don’t do it for fun. They do it professionally, travel around the world, play all the tournaments – some even have their own Beach Tennis academies - but they still shake hands at every changeover.”
A member of Cyprus’ Beach Tennis Committee, Baghdatis is doing his best to promote and develop the sport in his home country. One of the greatest challenges he has encountered is finding suitable sites to build courts along the nation’s picture-perfect coastline.
“Even though we’re an island and we have so many beaches it has been difficult for us to find places to build courts,” he admits. “Luckily last year we found a place to build and we currently have four courts. We’re trying to make it six and make more of the facility, run more ITF tournaments and bring sponsors in.
“We’re trying our best to do more for this sport and I think people are enjoying our efforts. Every time we have a tournament more people stop by and take an interest.”