After a day of senior beach tennis taking the spotlight at the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championships, it was the junior competition that really started to heat up on day three.
A round-robin format consisting of two groups will see the top team of each qualify for the final.
As the business end of the group stage approaches, the experience of Italy, Brazil and France sit at the top of the table, mirroring the success so far of their senior compatriots.
Fourteen-year-old Filippo Boscolo and partner Nicolo Baldini impressed in their 60 61 defeat of Russian pair Miron Kudrin and Daniil Pokidin, securing team Italy the victory after teammates Irene Mariotti and Giulia Renzi also won in straight sets.
“We played very good. We know that Russia is a good team but today we played better than them and we are satisfied,” Boscolo said.
Having first picked up a beach tennis racquet at the age of eight, Boscolo is continually inspired by his senior mentors Luca Carli and Guilia Gasparri – both of whom have not lost a set at this year’s championships.
“I want to be world No. 1 one day but I realise there is a long road ahead. I want to improve every year and train a lot to [hopefully] make that possible.”
With the Italian senior team progressing to the semifinals for the seventh year in a row, it seems that the development of beach tennis in the European nation is solid.
Current Brazilian coach and former Italian beach tennis champion, Alex Mingozzi, says that while beach tennis in other nations is starting to build momentum, the sport is already well established in Italy.
“Beach tennis started 30 years ago so they have a lot of experience. They have many schools where the level is very good. They have a lot of coaches – everyone knows a lot about tactics and techniques.”
However, Mingozzi who is working hard in Brazil to develop beach tennis, says that local kids are starting to believe in the game.
“We are introducing schools, workshops for coaches, [beach tennis] events, and we want to start doing more junior events,” Mingozzi said. “We have very big potential. In the next two or three years we will have a very good young team.”
The Brazilian junior team is already showing signs with yet another convincing 3-0 victory, this time over Estonia – dropping only two games across three ties.
With hundreds of beaches across 7,491 km (4,654 miles) of coastline, Mingozzi says Brazilians are built for beach tennis: “They have a very good physical structure – they jump a lot, they run faster… it’s in the blood.”
On the other side of the coin stands a nation like Germany, who currently sits third in Group A after their 3-0 loss to France.
Once captain of the junior team and now captain of the senior team, Maximillian Hamm, knows that beach tennis has a long way to come in Germany – starting at the junior level.
“What I have seen with these kids [German juniors], they come here [to Moscow] and they don’t really know what to do before the match, so you have to teach them. I think it’s different if you talk to the Italian captain or the Russian captain but in Germany that is the big difference.”
“Maybe that’s the big problem in our country, that the kids are very comfortable – they are not used to being aggressive. That is a big problem because you can’t teach them at the World Championships – it has to come from the parents, the schools and other sports.”
A lack of beach tennis coaches is also proving a major barrier in the development of the sport in Germany.
“We have a lot of clubs that build beach tennis courts, but the big problem is you don’t have the coaches. So, people start playing, they learn very fast but it’s not the kind of beach tennis that wins you a [World Team Championships] match,” Hamm said.
“They come from tennis, but they don’t understand the tactics [of beach tennis]. We have only a few kids that play beach tennis…They don’t see the reason why they should play beach tennis because they don’t have the facilities where they can play with other people, where they can play tournaments.”
However, there is perhaps a changing of the guard with beach tennis in Germany. Fifteen-year-old Pit Grosse-Wilde only started playing in 2015 and is already playing senior tournaments.
“He’s very motivated. Adults try to involve him in tournaments and ask him to play with him,” Hamm continued. “I think that’s a big advantage for the kids if they have adults who try to involve them and show them how to play adult tournaments because there’s a big difference [between them].”
Germany’s seniors team showed fighting spirit before falling short to a higher-ranked Brazil just before 10pm local time.
The South American nation will meet France on Saturday in the first semifinal, while favourites Italy will face off for a place in the final against Russia.
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