A Brief (But Complete) History of Beach Tennis – Timeline

Do you want to try something new and exciting by the seaside during your next trip to the beach? If the answer is yes, then, maybe, you should try beach tennis. This new sport is slowly becoming a darling of many beach lovers and athletes who want a new challenge.

It is fun, engaging, fast, and easy to learn. All you need are paddles or a tennis rackets, a net, and a low-compression tennis ball.

But have ever asked yourself where beach tennis originated from?

Beach tennis traces its origin to several locations around the globe, including Italy, Brazil, and Spain. However, the current heartland of beach tennis is in Italy.

First Played in 1978 by Tennis Players

Beach tennis was first played in 1978, when a group of tennis players on vacation in Ravenna, a coastal town in Italy, tried to play tennis using existing volleyball nets.

From a Fun Activity to a Professional Sport

In the early years, players used the high beach volleyball nets, but after a while, the nets were reduced to a height of 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) to make the sport more exciting and faster.

Over the years, the sport has evolved from being a fun and recreational activity to a highly competitive sport with a well-organized circuit. The first international competition (European Championship) was held in 1997 in Italy. Later in 2001, the country hosted World Championship.

Italy – The Capital of Beach Tennis

The sport became popular in Italy and spread to other coastal towns. As the game gain traction, more nets were set up in several Italian coastal beaches. Besides coastal beaches, several other inland and indoor nets have been set up to gather to a majority of inland beach tennis enthusiasts.

The more than a quarter million Italian players have contributed significantly to the popularity of the sport. This has also seen the country dominating most international competitions in terms of success and participation.

Beach Tennis Around the World

In the 2000s, beach tennis spread to other parts of Europe, Brazil, and the US.

Brazil

Beach tennis arrived in Brazil in 2008, and it was first played in the beaches of Rio. The sport has become so popular that it is already dominating almost a third of beach volleyball courts. As Brazilians from other parts of the country visited Rio, they started to develop a love for the game. As you would expect, they spread the game to their inland towns.

So far, a significant number of tennis clubs have converted some of their tennis courts into beach tennis courts. This change has become a worldwide trend. The game which was initially limited to beaches is now played on indoors beach tennis warehouses, resorts, up in the mountains, country clubs, tennis courts, and many other places.

United States

In the United States, beach tennis was formally introduced in 2005 by Marc Altheim, after visiting Aruba in 2003. By 2007, beach tennis had already grown to a mainstream sport, thanks to the formation of Beach Tennis USA (BT USA). During that year, BT USA got a boost from media sponsorship. The association signed television deals with both Tennis Channel and SNY in New York City.

Beach Tennis USA organized its first professional competitions in 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, beach tennis became one of Family Circle Cup’s attractions. After the tournament, the association organized BT USA 2008 tour where it began in Key Biscayne, Florida then other states followed.

These events raised the exposure of the game, which was further boosted by new broadcast agreements with NBC’s Today Show and Fox Sports Net (FSN)

Australia

Beach tennis was introduced in Australia in the early 2000s by Kellie de Burgh and Paul Mapley. In early 2000, Paul while on a trip to Europe stumbled on beach tennis. He saw the potential of the game rivaling volleyball; however, he didn’t take it seriously then.

It was until 2004 when hard work began. Paul and Kellie began doing a lot of research on the sport, exchanging several phones calls and emails till the time Beach Tennis Australia was launched.

Since 2004, several Australians have pursued the sport professionally, thanks to the support of Beach Tennis Australia. Then in 2005, Australia sent their first team to World Championships in Marina Di Ravenna, Italy. In 2007, the first Australian international tournament was held in Melbourne. Since then, the country sends more teams to the World Championships.

Professionalization of Beach Tennis

The first attempts to organize beach tennis started in 1997, and it was championed by IFBT. As a way to promote and professionalize the sport, the young federation, headed by Giandomenico Bellettini, organized tournaments in Italy. The first tournament was held in Marina di Ravenna.

Owing to the increasing popularity of the sport, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) became the regulatory body of beach tennis worldwide. ITF also started sponsoring several beach tennis tournaments. Now, the federation manages the most respected international ranking for beach tennis.

Major Milestones

Here is the chronology of events and major milestones that have contributed to the growth of beach tennis to its current status.

2008

In 2008, the federation created the first ITF Beach Tennis Circuit with tournaments hosted in different parts of the world. The first European Championships was staged in Rome.

2009

In 2009, the first Beach Tennis World Championship was hosted in Rome, Italy. In the following year, Turkey hosted the European Beach Tennis Championships, therefore, becoming the first tournament held outside Italy.

2011

In 2011, the tournament moved to Albena, Bulgaria. Also during that year, ITF proposed new changes for beach tennis balls. The stage 1 (green) balls were replaced with stage 2 (orange) balls.

2013

From 2013, the player ranking system changed. The points that determine player ranking was raised from ‘best 4’ to ‘best 6’.

That year also saw the inclusion of Pan American Championships, thus, becoming the fourth major Championship, besides the European Beach Tennis Championships, ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship, and Beach Tennis World Championships.

2014

The 2014 calendar year set a record in terms of the nations that took part in the World Team Championship. During that year, 24 nations took part in the competition.
2015

The first junior competition took place in Moscow in 2015. That year Moscow secure a two-year hosting right for the World Team Championship. Again, the number of competing nations increased to 28, setting a new record.

In late August, Mediterranean Beach Games included beach tennis as one of the sports. All European Beach Tennis Championships had been dominated by Italians players until 2015 when Russians Daria Churakova and Nikita Burmakin won the mixed doubles title.

2016 – 2017

During the 2016 and 2017 calendar years, ITF increased the tournaments required for ranking inclusion from 6 to 8. On top of this, it introduced a new points-ranking system.

Probably, some significant developments during 2017 were the addition of night sessions to the World Championships and total prize money exceeding $500,000 for the first time. Also, for the first time, Pan American Championships received 11 countries.

2018

In 2018, African Beach Tennis Championships was added to bring the total number of major ITF championships to five. ITF also discontinued its Facebook fan page and merged with International Federation of Beach Tennis account (another major beach tennis federation)

International Federation of Beach Tennis

Besides ITF, the other major beach tennis organization that has contributed to the development of the sport is the International Federation of Beach Tennis (IFBT). In 1997, IFBT was formed to promote the sport, train staff, bring structure to the sport, and administer rules.

Dr. Giandomenico Bellettini, the founder of the federation, became its first president. Through his leadership, beach tennis has gained wide acceptance in various parts of the world. Currently, the sport is played in over 50 countries worldwide.

All in all

Beach tennis is now getting into the golden age, thanks to the support from the above federations. With a world ranking structure now in place, an increasing number of players are pursuing the sport professionally. Some former and present tennis players are also considering joining the beach tennis bandwagon.

Top tennis players who have tried the sport include Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Rafael Nadal, the Bryan Brothers, Serena Williams, among others. Maybe, it’s time for you to give it a try, as well!

Related Questions

  • Is Beach Tennis a sport for everyone?

This sport combines the fun activity of the beach, sun, and sand. You can play on a recreational level, as well as, competitively. If you enjoy sports and like beaches, then this sport will appeal to you. It is a great way to have fun with your family.

Moreover, the sport doesn’t discriminate on age or gender. There are games for juniors, women, men, and masters. Beach tennis is truly a fun sport for all. The easiest way to start is to practice hitting the ball back and forth without a net. With time, you will get used to the rallies.

  • How is Beach Tennis beneficial?

Beach tennis is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Experts view beach tennis as an ideal activity to keep you fit. Any form of physical fitness is definitely good for your heart.

The game is also good at developing hand-eye coordination. As if this is not enough, playing beach tennis lets you burn more calories and strengthen bones, especially for young players. Since you move and change directions as you play, the sport helps to improve your flexibility and stamina.