22 Jul 2015

Juniors provide taste of things to come

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Lilyana VinogradovaJunior 2015 World Team Championship - Italy Team

MOSCOW, RUSSIA: If the 2015 ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship showed us that the gap between Italy and some of its nearest rivals is closing at a pace – notably in the case of Russia, Spain and Brazil – it remains a bit of a chasm when it comes to the juniors.

The inaugural ITF junior team championship event in Moscow was as much an exhibition of the next generation as it was a competition and as such was a resounding success. Six nations took part in a round robin format, but next year, when Russia will again host the tournament, it is expected that many more nations will bring junior teams with them.

Italy's juniors, not surprisingly, finished top, unbeaten in their five matches and without dropping a set. The old order continued with Brazil second followed by Russia. What it amplified was the importance of establishing a beach tennis culture in a country, which so far only the Italians have done.

They may only be 13-14 years of age, like their opponents, but in terms of experience the Italian teenagers are virtually old hands, having been playing beach tennis, in some cases, for as long as nine years.

Furthermore, as Federica Bacchetta, Italy’s outstanding professional player, pointed out they are born and bred beach tennis players, unlike their opponents and, in fact, unlike many of the senior Italian players.

“They have been playing beach tennis since they were six or seven so they have a lot of experience already,” said Bacchetta. “Our juniors start with beach tennis. All the other countries’ players here were tennis or volleyball players first and then became beach tennis players.

"It’s not a secondary sport with the Italian juniors. That’s important because all sports are different, including tennis and beach tennis. I started with tennis, but the new young ones here started with beach tennis."

Just as in the senior event, it provided a wake-up call for the Brazilians. Edwin Suikerbuik, the beach tennis coordinator for Brazilian Tennis Federation, commented: "It’s exactly the same as the pro players, the Italians have a lot more experience. For instance, our youth team played just two tournaments the whole year before coming here whereas their juniors probably play tournaments every week. That’s a huge difference.

Junior 2015 World Team Championship (BRA)

"Even our boys who I thought could beat Italy lost with pretty big numbers. The Italians have a lot more patience during a game and that has to do with playing a lot of competitions.

"The Brazilian boys’ first reaction was to cry and their second was to say ‘we’re going to train more. We only play, we have to train more’. So that was nice to hear. They saw what was happening. If they see it then you don’t have to tell them. That shows a good mentality.

"The Russians have the same problem but they have a technical level which is far below the Brazilian kids. We saw a big technical difference four or five years ago with the senior players but that gap always closes when you create more tournaments."

Michele Folegatti, the captain of the Italian youth team, thought that there were players in his team who could go on to become major players in beach tennis.

"My girls doubles team [Elisa Fuligna and Camilla Spadoni] are the Italian champions at under-14 level and I think in one or two years will be able to play with the adult girls and make good results," he said. "And I have two guys who are a little bit young now, but one – Riccardo Biagioli - has just started playing ITF adult tournaments and had some wins can become a professional beach tennis player if he follows the right path.

"As in tennis, not all good young beach tennis players can make the step up to become good professionals. The role of the coach then is of big importance in keeping them focussed during training."

2015 World Team Championship - Junior Winners