20 Jul 2015

Italy retains World Team title in Moscow

News Article

By Clive White

Italy Team

Italy, the dominant force of beach tennis, was given a mighty fright by Russia in the final of the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship in Moscow on Sunday – another sign that Italy’s dominance of the sport is under threat from the chasing pack. 

Italy hung on to its title – its third in four years - after Russia, hosting the competition again, took the champion the distance and some more before losing in the third and final set of the third and final rubber.

Russia had done more than enough - or so one thought – by simply breaking the stranglehold that Italy and Brazil have enjoyed in this competition the past three years by reaching the final at the South Americans’ expense.

But Russia was not satisfied with just finishing runner-up. It wanted that title and, after shaking the beach tennis world to its roots by winning the men’s doubles to square the tie, it took an opening set lead in the mixed doubles. It looked for the all the world then as if the Russians would go on to score an historic victory.

However, Italy has not ruled this sport for nothing since its official launch eight years ago under the ITF’s banner and Marco Garavini and Federica Bacchetta refused to let go. They drew one set all and then traded breaks with Russia in the final set before running out the winner 46 64 63 under the floodlights of the Dynamo Beach Sports Centre, having moved from the National Tennis Centre for the final.

“We’re used to winning and have always won in a very easy way – it was almost obvious [each year],” remarked Alessandro Calbucci, for so long the face of Italian beach tennis. “This time victory has a very different taste - it’s much more tasteful, I can say – and I would really like to thank our girls, especially Federica [Bacchetta] because she won this tournament for us. She won an amazing mixed doubles, making more points than Nikita [Burmakin] so she played as a man.

“We didn’t play our best beach tennis, but we have to say that the Russians have improved a lot since four years ago when they started to play. They have been improving so much and now they are maybe the second or the third movement of the world.”

That will make painful listening for Brazil, for so long Italy’s arch rival, who ended up losing the third-place match to Spain, another emerging force, earlier in the day 2-0.

In fact, for a brief moment Russia looked as though it would shock Italy in the opening rubber, the women’s doubles, when Julia Chubarova and Irina Glimakova won the opening three games but once Bacchetta and Sofia Cimatti, the world No 1s, settled they reeled off 12 of the following 14 games to win 64 61.

Calbucci was not his normal reliable self on serve alongside Garavini in the men’s doubles and was repeatedly broken. The 35-year-old revealed afterwards that he has been struggling with a shoulder injury the past six months following an accident.

Burmakin and Sergey Kuptsov, on the other hand, were serving like metronomes and would not be denied despite some sometimes inspired defending from the Italians and ran out 36 62 63 winners. Whereupon Kuptsov collapsed prostrate on the sand with Burmakin falling on top of him.

Beating the defending world champions just a week before the doubles World Championships begins in Cervia undoubtedly sent a clear message to the world that even the world's best and not invincible.

In Moscow at least, Calbucci, was not too concerned. “I knew our mixed doubles team was better than theirs. I’ve never seen in my life a girl playing like this. Federica is a champion, maybe the best player in the world and she showed everybody her talent today.”

“This is a team. We love each other - we don’t just like each other. We have been practising since three years ago so the Brazilians should learn from this. When you play this kind of competition your opponents are stronger than usual because they are representing their nation, so you have to be a group otherwise you mess up.”

The Russians were desperately disappointed and none more so than Burmakin, who, nevertheless, was able to adopt a philosophical attitude afterwards.

“I thought we would win right up until the end,” he said. “The players of Italy are very strong in defence, in attack. Probably if one or two points were different we would have won. We were lucky in the men’s doubles, we weren’t lucky in the mixed doubles – they were lucky. It’s an experience that we had to receive in order to play better in the future.”