Iryna Matiychyk (UKR) at the European Beach Tennis Championships in Brighton
Cast a glance at the ITF Pro Circuit profile of former tennis player Iryna Matiychyk and one of the first things that strikes you is her preference for playing the sport on grass and hard courts. These days though, it is sand, and Beach Tennis, that takes her fancy, even if tennis still plays a significant role in her life.
Now a tennis coach, Matiychyk played numerous Junior and Pro Circuit tournaments in her early life as a tennis professional. She rubbed shoulders with the likes of Canadian world No. 100 Sharon Fichman and Swiss world No. 44 Stefanie Voegele during her junior career, but after taking a break from the sport, the 25-year-old Ukrainian recaptured her competitive desire in the form of Beach Tennis.
“I played a lot of under 18 tennis tournaments, had a break, but wanted to start again,” she acknowledges. “Then last year in the Ukraine they made a Beach Tennis tournament. The organiser was a director at my club, and when I found out it was an ITF tournament I was really impressed because I’d never heard of it before.
“I tried it, really liked it, and then started playing tournaments in Russia, Italy and Austria. It soon got pretty serious for me!”
Currently ranked at No. 86 in the ITF Beach Tennis World rankings, Matiychyk, who lives in Lithuania, admits that her location has made it difficult to accelerate her progress in the sport.
“The bad thing is that in Ukraine and where I’m based in Lithuania, we don’t have beach tennis courts right now. I train with my husband in Lithuania and we try to do what we can on beach volleyball courts. We go there, take our net and practice. People think we are doing it just for fun but it’s the only way we can practice!”
Having developed her skills to a fine art on the tennis court, Matiychyk admits that while her tennis past helps her on the beach in terms of movement and coordination, the sport doesn’t transfer quite so easily when it comes to technique.
“It helps to a certain level but sometimes when you play beach tennis, because of tennis you make a mistake,” says Matiychyk. “It’s a different sport. You have different spins, and sometimes you just miss because of all your tennis coaching.
“I’m tall so I really like the serve and overheads. I really like to attack. The net is high, the court is shorter and the rackets are different to tennis so you need to practice, practice, practice just to get used to things.”
And if practice does indeed make perfect, Matiychyk is hoping to fly up the rankings before too long.
“I want to achieve the maximum that I can in this sport,” she says. “I really want to get into at least the Top 20. I’m only 25, but there are some players that are aged over 40 playing beach tennis. There’s no time frame like in tennis. Tennis is physically harder but here it’s much more about the mental game so you can play for longer.”