28 Oct 2011

Interview with Japanese players

News Article

Photo: Giampiero SpositoUmeda and Kamada at BTWC 2011

ITF Beach Tennis catches up with Kotarou Aizawa (KA) and Mayumi Umeda (MU)following the Beach Tennis World Championships at the Foro Italico in Rome

ITF: Before we talk about beach tennis and the World Championships how is the situation in Japan after the earthquake and the tsunami? Where were you at the time? KA: The north-east of the country was hit very badly and they are still struggling to recover from the aftermath of the tragedy, as well as trying to contain the ongoing problems with the nuclear plant. We are hopeful that the situation will get better. Personally, I was playing the Grade 2 tournament in Reunion at the time, so I was unaware of the situation.

MU: I was in Yokohama, South of Tokyo, at a friend’s house which was on a cliff top! It was very scary…I thought the house was going to topple over the edge.
ITF: We are happy to see 3 teams from Japan competing in the 2011 World Championships. How did beach tennis start in Japan and how has it developed over the last few years?
KA: A person called Toshiya Takahashi started beach tennis in Japan. He was working in Italy for three years and loved the sport so much that he brought his knowledge back to Japan and founded ‘Beach Tennis Japan’. Since then the sport has begun to grow as more people discovered the game.
ITF: Are there lots of beaches in Japan where beach tennis can be played? What are you doing to attract new players to play on these beaches? KA: There are lots of beaches in Japan, but beach sports are not very popular, so there are only a handful of places where we can play beach tennis at the moment. The sport has been growing over the last three years though and is slowly getting more popular. The limitation we have is that we need permission from the council for each beach and this can be very difficult.
ITF: Have you enjoyed this week at the historic grounds of Foro Italico? KA: Yes, we have really enjoyed the experience. We feel that our game has improved compared to last year and were able to perform more strongly but there are still areas of our game that we need to work on.
ITF: How did your matches go and what did you think of your competition?
KA: During the ITF tournaments in Reunion and Mauritius, I got to play against top players such as Alessandro Calbucci and Paolo Tazzari and that experience really helped in preparation for the World Championships. [Aizawa & his partner Yamamoto lost in a very close match against a strong Spanish team in the first round but went on to win the Men’s Consolation] The Italian teams are still too strong, but we feel that we and other nations are beginning to catch up.

MU: It was the time first that we [Umeda and Kamada] had competed in the World Championships. We came with no preconceptions or idea about how we would do. This week, we have realised the depth and complexity of the game and faced the reality…we felt a little helpless! Both teams lost in the first round, but in a way this was actually beneficial for us because we got to play more matches in the Consolation Draw. [Kamada/Umeda won the Women’s Consolation] On the first day, we were completely overwhelmed but as the week went by we began to appreciate the experience and identified what we have to do back home. Overall, it has been a positive week for us.
ITF: There were lots of spectators cheering for the Japanese players this week, possibly because everyone wants to show support after the disaster. Did you feel this?
KA: Yes we felt that. Also, my partner (Yamamoto) has been living in Italy and been playing at the “Sunset Beach Club” with Alessio Del Paolo and other Italian players. So he got to know lots of the players and we felt support, which was great!
ITF: What do you think is your next step to take beach tennis to another level back home? KA: This week, we’ve come to realise that we are not yet at the point where we can compete against the best international teams on the world stage, although we hope that other players can see that we are getting there, slowly but surely. All we can do is take back our valuable experience and use it to improve beach tennis in Japan.
ITF: Would you like to play in the World Champs next year? MU: Yes, we would love to!