Photo: SmashOnTheBeachMarco Garavini and Alessandro Calbucci (ITA)
Alessandro Calbucci and Marco Garavini made history after becoming the first team to successfully defend the title at the Beach Tennis World Championships in Cervia after defeating Luca Meliconi and Luca Cramarossa 75 62 in the final.
It was also the first time in the history of the event that the finalists had been forced to return on Monday after severe storms had brought a halt to proceedings on Sunday evening.
Spirits were in no way dampened by the Monday conclusion, however, as the final resumed with Meliconi serving at deuce at 2-2 in front of a packed 2,500-seater stadium for what was to be a battle of talent and raw determination.
Meliconi and Cramarossa took the first point and with it a 3-2 lead. What followed was an incredible showcase of beach tennis - every game went to deuce until finally Calbucci and Garavini took the first set 75 to give them a critical mental advantage going into the second set.
As the two teams took to the field for the second set the crowd could see the glimmer of success in Calbucci and Garavini's eyes as they realised they were so close to becoming the first team to win the World Championships two years running.
Perhaps it was this very thought, and the disappointment of Meliconi and Cramarossa at losing the first set, that drove Calbucci and Garavini to win the second 62. As soon as the ball came over the net Garavini and Calbucci were ready to smash it into the opposing side, the smallest mistake was punished ruthlessly and instantly.
Everyone in the 2,500 strong crowd stayed to celebrate with the champions at the prize ceremony. The flags of the 22 nations that had participated in this World Championships created a corridor for the four teams that had made up the finals of the women's and men's doubles events.
First through the colourful corridor were the runners-up of yesterday's women's final, Martina Corbara and Camilla Ponti, who were awarded silver medals by Cervia’s Minister for Sport, Gianni Grandu. The women's champions Sofia Cimatti and Federica Bacchetta followed to collect their gold medals and the much-longed for Women's Beach Tennis World Championships trophy.
"Thanks to the organisers for making this great tournament happen and to all the fans and loved ones who came to cheer us on," Cimatti said to the cheering crowd.
Men's doubles runners-up Luca Meliconi and Luca Cramarossa came down the corridor next to collect their medals. Cramarossa also thanked the crowd, saying: "Thank you to everyone who came, we will try to be better next year in this fantastic tournament".
Meliconi also paid tribute to his opponents. "Our opponents were better than us today even though we gave it our all," he said. "Thank you to everyone who believed in us in this last four days."
Cheers and yells greeted champions Calbucci and Garavini as they completed their run to the podium.
"This is like being at home for me," said Garavini. "And this is also the Wimbledon of beach tennis and even if we won on this very court last year it still feels as special as ever."
Calbucci also took time to reflect on the feat he and Garavini had just achieved. "The years go by and as I am told by some they are starting to show, the reason that I am so motivated to win this tournament is that it gives you the momentum to keep winning for the rest of the year," he said.
"As I always say you can lose by yourself but you need two to win and that is why Marco is so important to me. It's a shame about yesterday's weather but the organisers and the crowd helped make up for it today."
The beauty of beach tennis is the access that the crowd has to the star players. Calbucci and Garavini, Cimatti and Bacchetta, Meliconi and Cramarossa, and Ponti and Corbara stayed for over an hour signing rackets, shirts, taking pictures with kids and adults alike, proving that no one is immune to the charm of beach tennis.
Once again beach tennis has shown itself to be a sport that, like the beaches on which it is played around the world, brings people of all walks of life together in a celebration of sport and life.