As a long-time tennis fan, you might not realize that other variations of the sport exist. These fascinating games reject the standard courts and rules to create interesting variations of the sport you know and love. One example is beach tennis.
Beach tennis started on the beaches of Italy in the 1970s and eventually spread around the world. It has since become especially popular in Brazil, Spain, and Australia too.
Beach tennis is played on the sandy surface of a beach with a volleyball net. Players use smaller rackets without strings plus pressureless balls to slow the game down. The ball is not allowed to bounce, so this is simply a game of volleys.
The scoring and rules are mainly similar to those of regular tennis, however, this game has no-ad scoring and does not allow second serves.
Now let’s learn more details about this fun game! If you are on vacation, enjoying the sun, you can participate in the great sport of tennis ― with a twist.
Beach tennis is played on the exact same court as beach volleyball. Namely, the court is 16 m (52.5 ft) long and 8 m (26.25 ft) wide for doubles contests, which is the most common format.
The width of the court reduces to 4.5 m (14.75 ft) for singles matches. The playing area is defined by fabric cords. These have bright colors and are secured into the sand to represent the baselines and sidelines.
A beach tennis court differs from a beach volleyball court in one key aspect: the net height. The beach tennis net divides the court equally into two halves and is held up by posts embedded on both sides of the court.
For most matches, a uniform height of 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) is required, though referees can decide to increase the height of the net to 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in). For junior events, the net can be lowered accordingly.
Oftentimes, beach tennis matches are contested in hot and sunny conditions, which means that the sand can get quite hot. Therefore, the court is normally watered at regular intervals to cool it down.
Before matches, officials must make the sand as flat as possible to ensure fair gameplay. Also, organizers need to completely rid the playing surface of harmful sharp debris such as rocks, shells, or glass fragments.
Rackets with strings are forbidden in beach tennis tournaments. Instead, players must use paddles. These have a similar shape to normal tennis rackets but instead of strings feature a (mostly) solid and uniform hitting surface.
Beach tennis paddles do feature some holes, but they exist purely for aerodynamics; the holes allow air to pass through the racket which reduces drag and improves racket head speed.
With higher-end rackets, the outer surface is usually reinforced with kevlar or carbon fiber, while a solid foam core gives you a light overall composition. You can find cheaper rackets made from wood. The ITF stipulates that a beach tennis racket has to be 50 cm (20 in) or less in length.
To accommodate the smaller court size and make it easier to retrieve balls, beach tennis uses different balls to the ATP and WTA circuits. Specifically, players use the ITF stage 2 balls that have a distinctive yellow and orange color.
These balls have lower internal pressure and are therefore softer than the standard all-yellow balls. The softer balls do not bounce off the paddles as fast, so players can maintain rallies for longer.
Match Play & Format
A beach tennis match proceeds in much the same way as a regular match does. Players serve the ball to initiate a rally ― this can be underarm or overarm, though, in mixed doubles, men must serve underarm.
A rally will continue until either player or doubles pairing hits the ball out, fails to clear the net, or touches the net with their body or racket. There are no second serves, so a service fault gifts the opponent(s) the point.
Games are scored in the same way as normal tennis except that no advantage is played. So, players or pairings need four points to win a game. If the game is tied at deuce (40-40), the next point is the decisive game point.
Matches are typically played in a best-of-3 set format, with a tiebreak in place of the 3rd set. If a set is tied at 6-6, a normal tiebreak is used to determine the outcome. An alternative shorter
format is best-of-9 games in which a player or doubles team must claim 5 games to win the set, with a tiebreak at 4-4.
Players can use a variety of strategies and shots to win points. Common tactics include smashes, drop shots, lobs, and blocks.
Beach tennis is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and beach volleyball to provide a captivating spectacle for both players and fans. It is a form of tennis but as in badminton or volleyball, the ball must not touch the ground. Unlike in volleyball, however, you cannot hit the ball multiple times before sending it back over the net.
When serving, players have to stand behind the baseline. They must also be careful not to step on or under the baseline (or court) during the serve ― this is classed as a foot fault. There are no service boxes, so you can fire the ball at any location on the opponent’s half. Interestingly, let services are counted as valid and are not repeated.
In a doubles match, one player from each team serves for the entirety of a game. When that doubles pair serves again, the other player serves for the whole game.
The two players continue to alternate between serving and not serving for the entire match. Either player from a doubles team is allowed to return any service, however, they must stand at least 3 m back from the net to hit a legal return.
Other familiar tennis rules also apply here. For example, players switch ends after the first game and every odd number of games thereafter in a set. Plus, new balls are introduced at specified intervals of games throughout the match.
We already mentioned that the weather can make the sand hot which necessitates regular watering. Beaches can be even hotter and sunnier places than most standard courts on the professional circuit. Although players do usually enjoy the benefits of a sea breeze, they must be especially vigilant to avoid dehydration and sunburn.
Many competitors take part wearing the bare minimum e.g. shorts, swimming trunks, or a bikini. Hence, much of their torsos and limbs are exposed to harsh sunlight, so it is vital to wear plenty of sunscreen (particularly if you have a lighter skin tone). It goes without saying that frequent water breaks are essential for playing beach tennis safely for an extended period.
If you are new to beach tennis, you must familiarize yourself with playing on a sandy court. The sand gives way more easily than any standard tennis surface, so be careful not to push off too hard. Much of the gameplay involves jumping and diving to return balls, so players must learn how to land softly in all directions.
Origins & Worldwide Popularity
It is believed that beach tennis came into existence in Italy in the 1970s. Curious players took their standard tennis rackets to volleyball courts on a beach in Northern Italy and began experimenting. It was not long before the game spread along the Italian coast. The game was formalized and first played in a competition in Spain in 1978.
Nowadays, the sport has been officially registered in over 50 countries, and it is estimated that there are over half a million players. There is a year-round professional tour (ITF) with tournaments offering lucrative financial rewards. The most prestigious events are the Beach Tennis World Championships and World Cup which take place every year.
It is clear that beach tennis is more than a mere sporting fad. It has now developed into its own unique sport with a professional governing body and many dedicated fans and athletes. Despite the sport’s already remarkable growth so far, it will probably continue to grow.
This game is the perfect way to enjoy tennis in a totally new light while having fun outside in a beautiful location.