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What is beach tennis?

Beach tennis in an organised form was most likely played for the first time in 1988. This was in the shape of a tournament, which took place on the beach at Grado, Italy, using tennis racquets and a 180 cm high net. A group of P.E. teachers from Munich and their Italian colleagues from the University of Triest took part in the tournament on what was, at the time, the only beach-volleyball court at Grado-Pineta. This tournament was replayed every year at the same venue until 1998.

Wooden and plastic bats

Beachtennis an der Adriaküste

Beach tennis - highlight in Marina di Ravenna/Italy for years

Beach tennis, as presented for the first time in Landshut, in 1998, harks back to the studies of sport professors Adi Luger, Sparkassenakademie Landshut, and Dr. Eberhard Mensing, Sportwissenschaftliche Fakultät (Sports Science Faculty) der TU München. Coinciding with the developments in Germany, Dr. Gianni Bellettini advanced the game further in Italy, with the introduction of wooden and plastic bats. Although both versions of the game developed independently, today they are in close correlation with eachother. The German Beach Tennis Association (Deutscher Beach-Tennis-Verband e. V.), established in July, 2007, is devoted to both versions of the game. Today, both versions coexist on an equal footing.

Methodik balls are introduced

The rapid development of beach volleyball encouraged the independent development of a similar tennis game, using wooden or plastic racquets and an adapted set of rules and regulations, to make it attractive to tennis players.

Luisa Dafertshofer and Timo Fleischfresser playing the German championships in 2006

Luisa Dafertshofer and Timo Fleischfresser playing the German championships in 2006

The study was then chiefly concerned with attuning the court dimensions and hight of the net to the tennis racquet and its application. The set of rules put together by Dr. Mensing remain unchanged since their conception. Tennis rules served as a basis. Accordingly, in beach tennis as in tennis, the ball may be played after it has bounced, so long as this is possible. As match balls, so-called methodik balls are used. These are the softer tennis balls commonly used in beginner's tennis lessons. There are various types of methodik ball, therefore the type selected for a certain tournament is determined by the respective Tournament organiser. In strong wind, normal tennis balls can be used, in order to minimise any deviation caused by the wind.

Variations to tennis rules

The service rule and the points system are the only variations from the official tennis rules of the DTB (Deutscher Tennis Bund/German Tennis Federation).

Only one service attempt is allowed (there are no faults). The serve must be be played from a desired position behind the base line. The serve can be placed anywhere in the entire opponent's court, which means the serve can always be directed at the same opponent if the server desires. The serve must be conducted in an upwards motion, most commonly known as an under-arm swing.

The points system employs the ,No-Ad-Rule': there is only one deuce; the next point decides the game.

Health and leisure incentives

After almost 10 years, one can speak of a successful experiment. Beach tennis with tennis racquets has since spread world wide. Today the game is played with normal tennis racquets on a nine by nine metre court with a 1.6 metre high net, and with the so-called beach racquets, or paddle bats, on an eight by eight metre court with a 1.7 metre high net. In the latter version, an over-arm serve is allowed.

World champion Alex Mingozzi at the world championships in Marina di Ravenna/Italy 2007

World champion Alex Mingozzi at the world championships in Marina di Ravenna/Italy 2007

In 1999, the DTB offered the sport primarily to seniors, for health and leisure related reasons; indeed, it was widely embraced. However, young people also surged into the sport. Beach tennis overcame the leisure sport hurdle extremely quickly and became a competitive sport. By 2002, male and female players from the 1st and 2nd Tennis-Bundesliga entered the winner's lists at Filderstadt. Nevertheless, the social grade has remained an integral part of all tournaments draws, which have since implemented group matches. The first German Championships took place in 2001 and the first European Championships took place in 2003. In 2008, the beach-gymnasium "beach 38°" in Munich will play host to the first ever German Championships with paddle bats.

The most attractive aspect of the game are the tactics involved, which are very similar to those in badminton. Of course, in addition to the lobs and drop-shots there are the especially spectacular diving shots. The latter aspect of the game is a major attraction to young players, because this is where they can really cut loose!

In recent years, many tennis clubs have made beach tennis more accessible to their members. To some degree, coaches have recognised this trend and have carried out successful beach tennis courses, above all, to children and youths. Schools in Bavaria have also followed this trend in increasing numbers. In the field of Sport Education alone, approximately ten students have written either their research assignments, diploma theses or master theses, which include experimental research and tutorial models, on the topic of beach tennis. In 1999, more than 60 sport educationalists attended the first advanced training seminar of the BSLV in Würzburg.


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