When Tennis Meets the Beach

Two-time beach tennis USA National Men's Champion Phil Whitesell is helping to grow the sport. Photo: Beach Tennis USA.

Beach Tennis is an exciting new sport that offers an excellent cardio workout with low impact to the knees and joints.

It's a lot like regular tennis, except beach tennis is played on a regulation beach volleyball court, using a slightly depressurized tennis ball. The catch is you can't let the ball hit the ground.

Active.com caught up with Executive Director of Beach Tennis USA Alex Querna to discuss the growth of this popular new sport.

How did you get involved in beach tennis? I was working with Octagon Sports Marketing and was looking for something to do for four months. And I found Beach Tennis USA was searching for a tour manager. After that I got offered the Executive Director job. It's really exciting to be with a sport from the beginning. You can really see it grow.

Is a regular tennis ball used or does it have some modifications? Are the rackets the same? It's a regular racket., but it's a ball that's less pressurized. But it's just like regular tennis.

Can you tell us about some of the stars of your sport--such as Phil Whitesell and Chris Henderson? Well that's been a really great thing. People like Phil and Chris have been there since the beginning. They're two-time defending champions. They're the best. But the level of new players is really increasing and threatening them. We've also got the personalities growing. We've got the silent types like Pete Sampras and the emotional McEnroe types. That will really help grow the sport as well.

Are you selling the stars of the sport--or the sport itself? Or both? Well in the beginning we just wanted to spread the sport, get the message out there. But then we've seen some great things over the year. It's a different kind of sport. We like to say it's not your grandaddy's tennis. It's more of a rock n roll atmosphere. The best thing is we've seen a bunch of former tour players move to the sport. And we've just had some active tour players play in Miami.

Currently the sport is only in a doubles format. Is there some thought to adding a singles component? I've thought about it. Right now the doubles is the only sanctioned form of beach tennis. Down the line, certainly, but we have to think about how logistically that would work. It's a lot of ground to cover.

Are amateurs able to play in the same tournament as pros? Or are the tourneys clearly divided? Well it depends on how you define pro. We don't currently have any touring pros. We do have a pro division. This is for people who have racket experience. Then we have the amateur division that's more for beginners--people who've picked up a racket the first time and want to just have more fun; get to know the sport.

Phil Whitesell talks about how it's a great workout that's also less strenuous on older bodies. Is that a possible advantage beach tennis has over other sports? I totally agree. You know as I cross the threshold of the 30s I find playing tennis--especially the hard court stuff--can be rough on the body. Former court players who have bad knees and bad backs tell me their body feels much better after playing beach tennis. That's great. Not that it's not a great cardio workout, you have to work harder to cover the same amount of ground. But we get 55-year-old players who tell me they feel better than ever playing beach tennis.

For more information on how you can participate in beach tennis visit www.beachtennisusa.net .

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