A round up of the action from the ITF G1 Beach Tennis Tour Tournament
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA: The first day of one of the biggest tournaments of the year started in a very busy and eventful manner. Held alongside the ITF Men’s and Women’s Doubles ranking events were a number of non-ITF events, starting with the Men’s and Women’s PRO singles event which kicked-off the tournament.
Although not offering any ITF world ranking points – these are only available in men’s and women’s ITF Doubles events – this event still served up a beach tennis treat for the gathered crowds adding to the spirit and excitement of the Aruba tournament.
Moomba Beach, which I daresay is the most popular beach in the Caribbean when it comes to matters of beach tennis, was transformed into the battleground for athletes from all over the world, bringing together North and South American, Caribbean and European players to compete for ITF world ranking points, money and pride.
The island of Aruba, and especially Moomba Beach, was transformed into the Mecca of this amazing sport, combining world-class performances with a festive atmosphere, making this event truly spectacular, outstanding and unique.
The first one of four dramatic and athleticism-full days started rather busily with the singles draw, taking up every single court of the site in order to complete all the matches.
In the Men’s draw, some of the outstanding Brazilian players like Guilherme Prata and Vinicius Font, as well as some other great players were trying to steal the trophy, but yet had to respectfully acknowledge the Italian dominance in this event, an affair between Alessandro Calbucci and Luca Meliconi.
On the Women’s side, equally interesting and entertaining matches went on throughout the day, having Julie Labrit (St. Martin) and Flavia Muniz (Brazil) come out on top. In the end, Calbucci and Labrit prevailed in very close and hard fought matches to take the victories of the singles draws.
Friday was the second day of the tournament, which meant it was Nation’s Cup day. This additional non-ITF event promised to be a great day of world class beach tennis. Every country (and sometimes fusions of different nations) entered one or more teams to compete against each other and fight for the title.
Naturally, team Italy and the two Brazilian teams, as well as France, Aruba and maybe the U.S. were considered the favourite teams to come through pool play and make it into the semi finals.
Unfortunately there were only four spots open and Brazil 2 and team USA had hard fought battles in the group matches that lead to early elimination.
Italy, led by the best players in the world and long time veterans such as Calbucci, Marighella, Meliconi and Cappelletti, ended up eliminating France in the semifinal, and on the other side of the draw Brazil 1 lived up to their reputation and expectations knocking out Aruba on their way to the final round.
With Moomba Beach transformed into a melting pot and friendly battlefield between Italy and Brazil, the atmosphere was just right for an exceptional face off between two top nations in this sport.
The Italian men started out strong in a close and well fought match, deciding the first match in their favour, before sending out the women to compete. Very equally matched and talented, the Brazilian girls pulled off a more than close match to tie the overall score 1-all. As the whole crowd went wild, Brazilians and Italians were jumping off their seats celebrating each point with a new dance move.
The story line could not have been written any more perfectly, all coming down to a decisive mixed doubles match for the crown of Nation’s Cup winner. In the end, the much deeper pool of Italians with Meliconi & Marino prevailed in a tight match against Lima & Muniz and the rest of Brazil, taking home the trophy for yet another year.
With the start of the weekend, all other non-ITF events took to the courts, such as ‘intermediate’, ‘advanced’, and ‘youth’. These events were staged alongside the pros going for ITF World Ranking points in the men’s and women’s doubles events.
Needless to say, the whole beach and all courts transformed into Beach Tennis Central, where no court would be found vacant for more than two minutes in between matches. Despite having 400 entries overall, Aruba Beach Tennis and its organisers never lost their infamous beach tennis spirit as they rose to the challenge.
Saturday was the start of the doubles events with the teams grouped into six women’s and nine men’s pools playing for a place in the Main Draw. As expected, playing standard was high in the Pro events but the amateurs and kids events were not lacking talent.
The women’s draw was quite hard to predict, despite the top seeds Cortez & Muniz (BRA) and the 2nd seeded Americans being favourites to reach the semi final.
With high quality matches all around, the competition turned out much closer and even more uncertain towards the latter rounds, resulting in one of the great Italian teams, Prati & Cappelli, taking revenging their earlier Nations’ Cup defeat against the top seeds. Their success was short lived however, as they lost the semi final to Labrit & Carien (St. Martin) in a third set tiebreak.
On the other side of the women’s draw, Johnston & Melch (USA), who have been competing with the top three teams in the world over the last year, managed to come out on top in a 3-set semifinal against Amirad & Zanuttini (FRA & ITA).
As the lights came on for night play the centre court crowd grew in numbers and volume for an exhilarating women’s final.
Johnston & Melch seemed very determined and focused right out of the box, showing no nerves or doubt that they wanted to take the trophy home and write a little bit of U.S. beach tennis history.
Labrit & Carien, two well-seasoned and talented players, who just came off a victory in St. Martin the previous week, threw everything at their opponents but could not overcome the movement, aggression and athleticism of Johnston & Melch.
Taking matters in their own hands and front running the match at all times, the Americans never took their eyes off the prize and became the first American team to win a G1 event.
On the men’s side of the draw, matters were a bit more predictable and the top seeded teams Calbucci & Cappelletti and Marighella & Meliconi were heavily favoured to make it through to the final, and throughout the tournament didn’t let anything, or anyone, get in their way.
However, there draw wasn’t without drama. The team of Scheda & Lucchi (ITA) played their hearts out, seeing off Tronci & Folegatti (ITA) before eliminating one of the top teams, Prata & Font (BRA). Their impressive run came to an abrupt end in the semi final at the hands of Calbucci & Cappelletti (ITA) 60 62.
The other half of the men’s draw also saw an all-Italian affair, matching up veterans Chirico & Mattei with Marighella & Meliconi in a semi final encounter. In a rather one-sided match, Marighella & Meliconi showed up meaning business claimed the match 61 62.
The finals proved to be what it promised from the beginning with the four best players in the world showing aggressive, fast and athletic beach tennis, combined with extraordinary finesse and ball control, leaving the crowd up off their seats for most of the match!
Evenly matched, Marighella & Meliconi managed to turn the match in their favour, taking risks on important points and making them count.
Despite their amicable rivalry on the court, the after party brought all the athletes together to celebrate like Champions. An outstanding weekend’s beach tennis for players and spectators alike.