Photo: Paul ZimmerJoana Cortez and Samantha Barijan (BRA)
Joana Cortez is accustomed to some of the sporting world’s finest venues from her days playing professional tennis, but the Brazilian World No. 1 is treading new ground on the sand at Roland Garros this year.
Along with her fellow beach tennis World No. 1 Samantha Barijan and male compatriots Vinicius Font and Guilherme Prata, the Brazilian has been invited to take part in the Roland Garros Beach Tennis World Team Exhibition in Paris on 6-8 June.
The event, also featuring teams from Italy and France and based in a prime position at Roland Garros in between Court 15 and the imposing Court Suzanne Lenglen, serves as a high-profile showcase to the Beach Tennis World Team Championship which takes place in Moscow on 17-20 July, with some of the world’s best players taking part.
Having enjoyed the opportunity to play at the Grand Slams in qualifying, at the Olympic Games in Sydney and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas for eight years during her professional tennis career, Cortez, for one, is delighted to have another opportunity to play at such a prestigious venue – this time with beach tennis.
“I was here for the tennis three or four years ago but it’s so nice to play beach tennis at Roland Garros. I’m very happy about this,” said Cortez. “It’s very important for us to be here because we won the World Team Championship last year in Moscow. This invite from the France Tennis Federation was very good and we’re very impressed with the venue.”
Compatriot Font echoed her sentiments.
“For me it’s a dream to be here,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be at Roland Garros and being a guest here is even better. I wanted to be here as an ex-spectator but being a part of it is just indescribable. It’s amazing.
“This exhibition event is very good for the sport,” he added. “I think we still have a long way to go but this is a very good start. People are going to see it and I just hope they like it.”
Cortez, too, is acutely aware of the importance of the exhibition in introducing a sizeable audience to the world of beach tennis.
“It’s very important for the people to see beach tennis and for it to be inside this Grand Slam,” she said. “For us it’s important for the media, for the [general public] to see us play, but it’s also great because I can see the tennis matches! I love tennis and I can watch the juniors and all the other matches here!”
Most important, of course, is the opportunity that this event provides Cortez and Barijan in their preparations for their title defence in Moscow, as they look for a repeat of their upset of Italy in 2013 alongside male teammates Vinicius Font and Guilherme Prata.
“[This is] an important event for us as a team because we can play against Italy and France – the three best teams in the world are here,” added Cortez. “It’s very important to play them in preparation for Moscow.”
Edwin Suikerbuik, Brazil’s National Coordinator of Beach Tennis, reiterated Cortez’s thoughts.
“For us, being here is nice training for the upcoming World Championships in Moscow,” he said. “It’s going to be great – I think a lot of countries are going to participate and we’re looking forward to it. Also for us this is good training for the Pan American Games which are coming up in September in Santos in Brazil.
“This will be three spectacular months for Beach Tennis.”