Photo: SmashOnTheBeachGregorio Barison/Pierpaolo Sabattini (ITA)
The main event draw and opening ceremony attracted all of the big names in beach tennis, as well as numerous spectators, to what was officially the start of the ITF Beach Tennis World Championships 2014 at Bagno Delfino in Cervia, Italy.
The professionals could be seen from early in the day on Thursday as they came to practice and scout their potential opponents as well as catch up with friends who had come from all over the world to play in the World Championships.
Joana Cortez of Brazil, who is No. 1 seed in the women's doubles with her partner Samantha Barijan, was in a calm mood ahead of the championships.
"The draw doesn't worry me too much as the competition is so strong at the World Championships, being first seed also means people are more motivated to beat us if they draw us," she said.
"I couldn't come last year but it would be great to win here as I consider it to be the most competitive tournament in the Beach Tennis calendar."
The draw for the main event was carried out by tournament director Paolo Caponigri, tournament referee Riccardo Ragazzini, journalist Marco Ortolani and Cervia's minister of sport Giovanni Grandu.
The opening ceremony followed, with all the flags of all the participating nations unfurled around a beach tennis court for what was truly a remarkable spectacle and a reminder of the sport's growing appeal as it becomes more international every year.
Michele Cappelletti and Luca Carli of Italy, last year's runners-up, admitted that their task of reaching the final again could be even tougher this year.
"Overall we are satisfied with the draw, it could have been a lot worse," said Cappelletti. "But everyone is here to win and won't go out without a fight."
Alessandro Calbucci, top seed and reigning champion alongside Marco Garavini, was also pleased with the outcome of the draw.
"I'm pretty happy," he said. "We got a team that has come through qualifying so we know that they are a team capable of winning and willing to fight to get through. It's important to remember that this is the World Championships and easy games don't exist, every game is a battle."
The players will no doubt be going through their usual pre-match rituals and preparing mentally for what promises to be an intense three days of beach tennis.
Make sure to watch the centre court livestream and the livescore feature throughout the day.