The draw wasn’t kind to Brazil. After a bye in the first round of the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship the reigning champion got the winners of Switzerland versus Cyprus. It wanted Germany. One wonders why.
For what is almost certainly the first international team event in sport since the World Cup in Brazil earlier this month, Brazil’s – and the world’s – No. 1 Vinicius Font wanted to face Germany, the country that had inflicted so much pain and suffering on his nation in the semifinals of the biggest football tournament on earth.
When asked if playing this championship would give them extra motivation after what had happened in his homeland just recently, Font replied: “What would give me great motivation would be to play Germany, but unfortunately we haven’t drawn them,” he said only slightly tongue in cheek. “Hopefully, we get to play them soon.”
As luck would have it, they could meet the Germans in the semifinals, which would have a nice symmetry about it. The No. 6 seeds apart, Font knows that it’s Italy that his country really needs to keep its eye on. Brazil won this title – the Italians would say borrowed it – at last year’s championship in Moscow when it beat them in the final.
“The biggest threat is always Italy, they are the inventors of the sport,” conceded Font. “They’re the favourites, but there are other very good teams here like Cyprus – the men’s team is very good – their girls are not that good but they can play. Also Venezuela, they have a strong team, and Russia and France are very good too.
“Spain, they came here with a young guy – Saulo [Tejada] – a good person and an amazing player, who will become a top player for sure.”
Font is expecting lots of changes in the game during the next 10 years as it becomes more professional, but acknowledges that beach and Brazil is a natural fit in this sport. As he said: “We have 8000km of beach so it’s natural for us to develop the sport in our country and we have pretty much summer all the year long so it’s one thing we have better than the other countries in Europe. Only in the south of Brazil can you not play the whole year.”
Font only took up beach tennis five years ago and at 29 is expecting many more years at the top in a sport in which believes you can go on longer than in tennis, even into your forties. “It’s not a stamina sport like tennis - at least on the men’s side - it’s more of an explosive one,” he said. “You have to jump a lot, you have to hit hard every time and you have to be fast, you have to sprint - a lot of fast reactions are required.
“You also have to be able to defend and attack and you’ve got to have a good serve. If you don’t have a good serve you’re going to be under a lot of pressure.”
Beach tennis and Moscow does not sound like such a perfect fit, but the event at the National Tennis Centre, which is now in its third and final year, has been a huge success with the players – particularly Font.
“Before beach tennis I had been playing tennis my entire life and team tournaments were always the ones I loved the most,” he said. “The feeling is great and being here, it’s amazing. The first time I was here I couldn’t believe it. I never imagined I could come to Moscow and this is the third time I’ve been here, thanks to beach tennis.”
And the feeling will be even better if Font gets the chance to face – and of course beat – Germany in the semifinals. One can take it for granted that Neymar and company would be rooting for them.