South African Beach Tennis-its Origins and Future: Part 1

Updated: Sep 6

"Visit any beach in South Africa during the festive season, and you’ll see a wide variety of people playing a simple form of beach tennis - with a paddle and ball. This demonstrates that beach tennis is fun, easy to play, and appeals to all ages. It offers a simple and easy entry point into our sport, and we think it is a dynamic platform from which to grow tennis in South Africa.” Richard Glover, CEO of Tennis SA in 2018

How it all started

I clearly remember the first time we played Beach Tennis, or “Tennis on the Beach,” some nine years ago. TopspinSA and the Clubview Tennis Club in Centurion hosted an all-night FUN Tennis Tournament with mini-matches of 5-mins per court on 5five courts, eventually finishing with Beach Tennis on the Volleyball court. As expressed by everyone, the Highlight of the tournament seemed to be the informal Beach Tennis finale, and that is also how Beach Tennis unofficially started in South Africa. Iain Smith, the Chairperson of Clubview Tennis Club at the time, has since become the Head of Beach Tennis SA, and today, we have a proud SA Beach Tennis team.

What is Beach Tennis?

Think about a mixture of beach volleyball and tennis. Initially played on a beach but with a tennis ball and racket, it has now evolved into more than a mere beach game. There are two types of beach tennis in the world, beach tennis with a paddle and beach tennis USA. Beach Tennis USA is similar to beach volleyball, but a racket with strings instead of a paddle is used. The most popular version of the sport is to play it with a Beach tennis paddle and a stage 2 tennis ball.

Why has it become so popular?

Beach Tennis is played in over 50 countries with more than 500 thousand players worldwide. It is fun and easy to play, arguably the main reason it is gaining popularity – players find it easier to learn than most racket sports. Even a beginner could easily pick up a paddle and play, and it is even simpler for people who’ve previously played tennis, table tennis, squash, or badminton. This increases the “fun factor” of the game – hence the popularity. Tennis SA called it the “fun tennis” of the future, as it is a game that all ages and playing abilities can play.

In addition, beach tennis offers an excellent cardio workout with a low impact on the knees and joints due to playing in the sand. As a result of the sport’s similarity to tennis, it’s prevalent and trendy amongst tennis players as an additional sporting activity. Still, it’s by no means reserved for Tennis players only! More and more recreational clubs are bringing in Beach Tennis to increase their offering to athletes and to meet the demand of people playing the sport.

Actor and former USA Senator Arnold Schwarzenegger give celebrity status to Beach Tennis in SA, as he hosts the Arnold Classic Africa event in SA every year. (Pictured below with some South African and international players at the 2019 event in Sandton, Gauteng). Organizers believe the ACA event is a perfect platform to develop Beach Tennis and help grow participation from a young age.

Is it a competitive sport?

Beach Tennis is an approved International Tennis Federation (ITF) discipline. South Africa is one of 47 countries worldwide where the sport is now actively being promoted and played on a competitive level. The ITF Beach Tennis World Cup, formally known as the Beach Tennis World Team Championship (2012-2019), is a mixed competition in which nations compete against each other as a team. Each team comprises two men and two women, with ties consisting of a men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and a mixed doubles match.

TopspinSA is proudly associated with the development of Beach Tennis in SA and has been one of the team's official sponsors in many events, including their participation in Russia, where our SA Team achieved 15th place in the pro finals in 2019. The Russian Tennis Federation has been the host to host the Tour's flagship team competition since 2012.

How to Play Beach Tennis

- Basic Rules and Scoring

At its most basic, the ball is not allowed to touch the ground and is played only with volleys to return the ball with only one hit to the other side of the court. Beach tennis adopted most of the rules and scoring of tennis. Below are the basic rules and scoring:

· Touch the line is in

· Points 15/30/40, but with sudden death on 40, all

· Players are expected to switch sides after the end of odd games – 1, 3, 5, and so forth

· Similar to volleyball, points start with a serve and end when the ball touches the ground

· Serve starts from anywhere behind the baseline to any of the opponents and play-on when touching the net

· You only get one serve

· You can serve under the head or above the head, but in mixed doubles, men are expected to serve to ladies underhand from below the waist

· The winner is determined by the team who scores 7 (or 9) games with a margin of at least two games

· A tie-break is played at 6 (or 8) games all

Turquoise, the no 1 Beach Tennis Paddle, is sold exclusively by Topspin in SA.

What Equipment would you need to start playing?

It would help if you had two paddles and a tennis ball in its most informal form. You would need 4 Beach Tennis paddles, a tennis ball, a net set, court lines, and a court for more competitive games.

Beach Tennis Paddle

While various paddle sizes are allowed in beach tennis, the maximum length should not exceed 55cm, the width should not exceed 30cm, and the weight between 320 - 370 grams—the heavier, the more powerful, and the more challenging to maneuver.

Like all sports, Beach Tennis paddles are available in a wide variety with different levels of quality and can be categorized into three levelsgroupslevels groups:

1. Social or Beginner

2. Intermediate Semi-pro

3. Professional

The following graph gives an excellent visual of the above racket range with Control on the y-axis and Hardness on the x-axis, resulting in maximum POWER! However, the more you move towards the right, the more expensive the racket becomes due to the material involved in manufacturing.

Paddles consist of a profile or frame, a core, and a hitting surface covering the body. All the various components are made of different materials but fused to form one unit. The nature of a paddle consists of Foam or EVA rubber or a combination of the two. EVA is more durable than foam but more expensive. Eva is more complex and, therefore, more complicated and challenging to play with when you are a beginner (less power, more control). The surface and frame of the paddle are typically made of Glass Fibre, Carbon Fibre, or a combination of the two.

What is the Price Tag?

The price of Beach Tennis paddles is determined by the material used to manufacture them. The most basic paddle is your classic old wooden or plastic racket used on a beach holiday. Do you remember how they tended to break between the handle and the paddle surface and most often would not last the duration of your holiday? Cheaper versions of good beach tennis paddles are still available, but I recommend you start with a glass fiber racket from a respected brand if you want to play a little more seriously. Like most things in life, cheaper means sacrificing quality for the price.