2014 World Team Championship winners Italy
Italy handed out a master class in beach tennis to great rivals Brazil at Moscow’s National Tennis Centre on Sunday and in so doing made it clear that last year’s defeat to the South Americans in the final of the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship was an aberration that is unlikely to be repeated for a very long while.
After last year’s win against Italy, Brazil could be forgiven for thinking they were closing the gap on the founding father of the sport; Italy, after all, has roughly a 15-year start on most of its opponents. However, the wins in the women’s doubles and men’s doubles – the mixed wasn’t played – were so conclusive that Brazil must have felt like someone who had scaled a mountain and then been pushed off the edge.
Brazil has struggled during this Championship and in both the quarterfinal and semifinal had relied heavily upon Vinicius Font, their world No. 1, to drag them back from the brink of defeat.
For the third match running the hitherto peerless Brazilian women’s doubles team were beaten, but this time there was nothing that Font could do to rectify matters and he and Marcus Ferreira were thrashed 61 61 by Alessandro Calbucci and Marco Garavini, indisputably now the best doubles team in the world.
Guilherme Prata, the affable Brazilian captain, has been around the game for too long and has too much respect for the opposition to make excuses. He said: “The feeling that you have when you play against them is that they have six on the other side of the court and we have only one on our side. It feels like you have no empty places in the court [to aim at].”
From the moment Italy beat a very good France team 3-0 in the second round it was obvious that they would regain the title that they won here two years ago. As Prata said, “they were a team on a mission”. The only match they lost was shortened mixed doubles in the semifinals against Russia when the outcome of the tie had already been decided.
It’s not just its men who have been in superlative form, but its women, too. Federica Bacchetta, who was the “mitigating” reason why they lost last year’s final when she was injured shortly before the championship, teamed up with Sofia Cimatti to beat Joana Cortez and Lorena Melo 61 62. Apparently, though, they have needed some coaxing, according to the incomparable Calbucci.
“We did great team building the last two weeks and we prepared before every single match especially the final – the Brazilian team had grown up a lot in these last seven months,” he said. “Especially with the girls it’s necessary to create a good feeling of confidence so that they can trust us when we give them suggestions and advice because psychologically they are very strange, very weird, very different from us.”
At least Brazil had the compensation of knowing that they had done their bit for the country’s sporting reputation by beating Germany in the semifinals, which, of course, had a nice symmetry about it after the fate that befell the country’s football team in the World Cup.
A little surprisingly, the Germans were well beaten 3-0 in the third-place match by the hosts Russia, who in so doing regained their podium finish of two years ago. Their men’s doubles team of Nikita Burmakin and Sergey Kuptsov – both huge servers – had pushed the Italians harder than anyone in the semifinal, even if it was only for a set.