Photo: Lilyana VinogradovaNikita Burmakin (RUS)
The cream is rising to the top of the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship with all eight seeds comfortably through to the quarterfinals on Friday. And as a result thoughts of revenge are growing stronger by the minute - even in the laid-back, friendly world of beach tennis.
Brazil is seeking revenge on Germany in the semifinals for something untoward that happened to them back in Belo Horizonte earlier this month while Italy wants to avenge their loss to Brazil in last year’s final. Both could end up getting their way – even the Germans don’t see themselves handing out another humiliation to the boys and girls from Brazil.
For all the progress made by other countries in this sport during the past year, Italy’s Alessandro Calbucci for one is fully expecting the old order to be restored as well as regain his world No. 1 ranking from the Brazilian Vinicius Font. As he put it, he was happy for his friend Font to “smell the scent, the perfume of the first ranking place for a few weeks”, but now he wants it back.
Italy were made to work hard for their second–round win against France, ostensibly by the twin sisters from Reunion Island, Marie-Eve and Mathilde Hoarau, who pushed Italy’s Federica Bacchetta and Sofia Cimatti all the way. The French girls demonstrated a keen understanding that the Bryan brothers in tennis could have related to.
Having been semifinalists in each of the last two championships, the French could consider themselves a little unfortunate not to be seeded and then to come up against the force of Italy.
Calbucci bemoaned his team’s own bad luck last year when one of his teammate’s injured herself just before leaving for Russia, which meant that they weren’t able to replace her. “Generally speaking, Brazil is as strong as Italy right now,” he said. “It’s not obvious, but probably we will play the final against them – at least I hope, so we can take our revenge.
“Of the other countries, France have been developing a lot this year and Japan as well. And in Venezuela there is a lot of enthusiasm for beach tennis, but maybe they are still a little bit far away from us [partly] because of political problems.”
Victory for Brazil against Cyprus was only confirmed after a hard-fought men’s match. Brazil’s women, Samantha Barijan and Joana Cortez, dropped just one game in beating Cyprus’s Marianna Tsakkistou and Antri Tsangaridou. Only in the final set did the play of Cyprus’s Petros Baghdatis and Christopher Koutrouzas become ragged against Thales Santos and Font.
The unluckiest team was Belarus. It’s former Fed Cup pairing of the wily Natasha Zvereva and Olga Barabanschikova ensured that their tie against Portugal went the distance and some more. Pavel Koliarov and Barabanschikova eventually lost the deciding mixed doubles to Filipe Rebelo and Ana Pereira 62 67(2) 75.
Spain managed to turn their tie around after losing the ladies match to Alice Grandi and Camilla Zafferani of San Marino while the rest of the seeds, Venezuela, Japan, Russia and Germany were all convincing winners. The odd one out among those is Germany, who of course don’t have any beaches and not too many courts either. “If you go to Italy you have 150 courts, if you go to Germany you have two – it’s a small difference,” said Germany’s Oliver Munz.
A little worryingly, perhaps, for Brazil, Munz bears an uncanny resemblance to a former German footballer of note – Andreas Moller and while he expects Brazil to have its revenge should the two countries meet in the semifinals, warned that they won’t roll over for them. “We will give everything – just like our footballers,” he said.