Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're On

Beach Tennis USA is the world's newest sand sport, but in no way will it cloak in club-like secrecy.

The magnitude of this year's national tour is indicative of how promising the sport and its high-tide competition can be.

A surplus of new teams have splashed the shoreline, with a number of teams quickly mastering the transition from the gravel to the sand.

For some it's been a quantum leap, for others the transition has been seamless.

In both the men's and women's pro division, however, the top-tier teams are ziplock-tight and evenly matched. In the men's division, two teams are going out guns-a-blazin' to knock off reigning champion and perennial power Team Italy.

In the women's pro division, Nicole Melch and three-time national champion and Long Island native Nadia Johnson have proved there's a new sheriff in town.

Last year's national championship is all but swept underneath the rug, with Johnson hoping to avenging a loss against defending champions Laura and Lisa Maloney, who've held an unblemished record since 2007.

This could be an epic year, with a major challenge cooking on the burner of Johnson--who's evolved into one of the top players in the world and has been given the torch to carry proudly for Beach Tennis USA.

Will Johnson and new partner Melch be able to neutralize the team the sisters that seem to have forgotten how to lose momentum lately?

I'm not certain, but what I do know is this: Plenty of new players are slated for the Labor Day Weekend competition, hiking up the stakes and adding extra juice to the highly-publicized event.

Last season's championship was action-packed, appearing on the Tennis Channel and the Sports New York (SNY) network.

The national tour that swings through 10 cities and culminates with a beach blowout in Long Beach, N.Y. is expanding its horizons.

A litany of sponsors have joined forces and a number of countries--Aruba, Jamaica, and Bermuda to name a few--have caught the fever. The only area that's striving for some more national visibility is the United States.

On the men's side of the house, expect a bevy of fresh faces come September.

"We're really interested in seeing what this sport is all about," said Tom Curran, a tennis player who starred at Quinnipiac University.

"I think it definitely attracts a beach crowd, people that want more excitement and athletic activity under the sun. On the other side of the coin, a lot of tennis players are likely going to gear up for the challenge. It's almost like baseball and stickball."

Curran, who is a tennis instructor in Westport, Conn., also likes the aspect of competing for winnings.

"Just like the movie, 'White Men Can't Jump.' When you are competing for money, however large or small the sum may be, there's an increased level of pride and competition. It brings out the best in teams."

Curran, who had a storied career at Fairfield Prep—where he garnered first team All-State and All-SCC accolades, was immediately plunged into a significant role in the demanding Division-I landscape. A recruit that Quinnipiac actively pursued and invested four years in, Curran didn’t disappoint.

He helped the Bobcats capture the Northeast Conference championship as a freshman in 2006, as he finished 4-0 in singles during conference action. This past season, Curran registered an overall record of 11-9 while winning three of four NEC conference matches.

To sign up for the national championship on Labor Day weekend in Long Beach, please visit