October 16, 2008

The Ball's In Your ... Sand?

This past weekend I found myself watching a curious little game. On the sand of Long Beach, New York, just an hour outside Manhattan and forty-five minutes south of Flushing Meadows where the U.S. Open is played, four women were competing in the National Championships of Beach Tennis.

It was a strange contest, part beach volleyball, part badminton. The play drew more continuous cheers than your average tennis match, where fans are expected to be pin-drop quiet during points, but didn't quite attract the kinds of crowds Misty May and Kerri Walsh are able to bring out to their tournaments.

And while there was a certain amount of intensity in the players' eyes as they smacked the slightly depressurized ball at their opponents, for me at least, the event didn't quite create the aura of competition that usually surrounds sports -- and especially championship matches.

To be fair, beach tennis is relatively new to the world of professional athletics. In fact I'm not sure it was ever really an amateur sport, except in the way we all used to knock around a tennis ball on our family trips to the shore.

A formalized concept for the sport was started in the Netherlands, but the first leagues began in Aruba at the turn of the century, where the first international tournaments were held in 2002. New York native Marc Altheim brought the sport stateside in 2003, established a governing body and launched a national tour in 2005. But it was only last year that the first beach tennis tournaments were broadcast on TV, complete with sponsorships from Penn, Head and Dos Equis.

The rules of beach tennis are simple. So far there's no such thing as "singles" in the sport, nor is there a second serve. Scores are kept the same way as in tennis -- 15-Love, 30-15, Deuce -- but there are no advantages after 40-40, and the next point determines the winner. They play one "pro-set", where the first team to eight with a two-game lead wins; a twelve point tiebreak determines the outcome of any draws. Unlike tennis the ball can't hit the ground (I don't imagine there'd be much bounce); unlike beach volleyball there's only one hit per side -- no setting up your partner for the smash.

The court is a comparatively small thirty by sixty feet and the net is strung above ground, five feet-ten inches high. The players I watched in Long Beach used regulation tennis racquets, but some other professionals, mostly in other countries, use paddles that resemble elementary school toys.

So who plays beach tennis? Well presumably we all can. The good folks at Beach Tennis U.S.A. assure me that I can easily set up my own league -- all I need is to be somewhat close to a beach (or, I suppose, a large sandbox). I confess, a little part of me wonders whether I'd be able to support myself if I quit my day job and went pro, or at least became a pro coach.

But on a professional level players come from all over -- some are retired tennis players like Jay Berger or Pablo Arraya, others are trying to make a name for themselves as sand-court specialists. Three-time defending national champion, Nadia Johnston, a local Long Beacher, paired with former WTA player Elena Jirnova in this year's final. They lost to the Maloney sisters from San Diego who could've picked up the sport in their own backyard.

I have yet to figure out what it takes to be a power in beach tennis. The only rankings I could find seemed to be focused on Italian players and had two people ranked as #1 -- which might make sense as this is a doubles sport, but eight people are ranked fifteenth. In the U.S. teams are awarded a hundred points just for entering a tournament and five times that for actually winning; the stakes are of course higher for the "bigger" events. Thus merely signing up for a few games is just as good as winning just one.

Who knows if the sport will get the traction it needs to gather a real following. It's interesting to watch -- once, maybe twice -- and I'm sure fun to play competetively. But I don't know if sports fans will really be satisfied with a contest that could be over in just a few minutes. And I know plenty of people who object to the concept of beach volleyball as an Olympic sport, saying it's just recreation, not athletics -- isn't beach tennis the same?

Maybe it just needs a few more years, a few more TV stations to broadcast a match here and there, a few more notable athletes to bring a face to the game.

Maybe it just needs someone to start talking about it.

So talk -- and what the heck? Go out and start your own league. At the very least, how bad is a few extra days at the beach?

See you on the sand!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Không gian làm việc cũng là một yếu tố đánh giá đến năng lực làm việc của bạn, bạn chắc chắn sẽ đánh giá cao (và hưởng lợi ích) khi có không gian làm việc có phong thủy tốt, sở hữu dòng chảy năng lượng năng động và thành công. Dưới đây là một số ý tưởng việc đặt bàn làm việc hcm để hoàn thiện nơi làm việc sao cho thuận phong thủy, nhanh chóng đạt được thành công hơn.
1. Văn phòng tại gia càng xa phòng ngủ càng tốt. Nếu có điều kiện nên tách riêng phòng làm việc với một lối đi riêng bên ngoài.
2. Vị trí ngồi nên tạo thành đường thẳng trực tiếp với cửa vì bạn có thể nhận phải nguồn năng lượng tiêu cực. Bạn nên chuyển ghế ngồi của bạn sang vị trí khác để tránh năng lượng tiêu cực đi qua cơ thể. Nếu lưng của bạn buộc phải quay về phía cửa khi ngồi vào bàn văn phòng hcm , bạn có thể giảm bớt ảnh hưởng tiêu cực bằng cách nhìn thấy hình ảnh phản chiếu của cửa. Hãy treo gương hoặc bất kỳ đồ vật phản chiếu nào xung quanh bàn làm việc để tạo tương phản.
Và bàn làm việc và mẫu ghế văn phòng cần phải có sụ hài hòa với nhau để tạo nên địa điểm nơi làm việc để giúp cho nhân viên không gian địa điểm làm việc tốt nhất. Nên nhớ ghế không được cáo hoặc thấp hơn bạn làm việc sẽ tạo không thoải mái cho nhân viên gây vấn đề về cột sống.