Photo: Stuart BarracloughBrazil team at World Team Championship 2013 in Moscow
Following their triumph at the inaugural ITF Beach Tennis Pan American Championships in September, Brazilians Joana Cortez and Samantha Barijan share their delight in becoming the first Pan American Champions and recall the highlights of their journey to reach this stage in their career.
“We are very excited to have won the first ever Pan American Championships and that we were able to do so here in Brazil,” smiled the former Fed Cup and Olympian Joana Cortez. “I am also delighted we have made it to No. 1 in the world rankings.”
This is not the first major championships that Cortez and Barijan have won under their nation’s flag as they were also part of the winning team that defeated Italy in the final of the ITF World Team Championship two months earlier.
“I am very happy with the progress that is taking place for beach tennis here in Brazil and it is great to have these inaugural Championships here,” says Cortez. "It is the first time for this event and regional championships have a different feel to other events and play an important role in developing the sport.
“There have been European Championships for many years and the Pan American Championships will help give beach tennis a further boost in South America, the United States and Central America.”
Barijan and Cortez have enjoyed a hugely successful year together, winning four Grade 1 events on top of their Pan American and World Team Championship triumphs. However, when asked for a highlight, Barijan did not need to think for long before affirming: “winning the World Team Championship in Moscow.
“It was very significant for Brazil as it continues to establish itself as a major force in beach tennis,” she continued. “Italy is a very strong nation with a lot of very talented players but now we have shown that Brazil has also reached this level."
It was an easy question for Cortez too as she agreed with her teammate, adding: "It was a dream come true and has also given us more confidence when we play other tournaments around the world."
Cortez went on to explain how their winning partnership began. “We first started playing beach tennis together in 2009. I am from Rio [de Janeiro] and Samantha [Barijan] is from Sao Paulo but Samantha moved to Rio for work and we began to play beach tennis together and have done so now for four years."
Having previously represented Brazil in team tennis events in the Fed Cup competition and at the Olympics, Cortez reflected on the feeling of now carrying the nation’s flag for beach tennis.
“There is always a lot of emotion,” she says. “When I played tennis I always loved playing in the Fed Cup and at the Olympics because you are playing for your country. In these Pan American Championships too it is the same feeling, that you are here to play for Brazil. It is a level up from playing other events on the Tour and so it is a great feeling to play and to play for Brazil.
“It would be wonderful if beach tennis can one day be included on the Olympics although I do not know if I will still be playing by this time,” Cortez smiled.
“The World Team Championship and these Pan American Championships give players the opportunity to play for their country and this is a very satisfying and proud feeling,” concluded Barijan.