Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Whitesell-Henderson Take Title In Virginia Beach Blast

Virginia Beach, Va.--Observing Phil Whitesell and Chris Henderson's off the sand communication, one may notice how the two-man chemistry has come to fruition.

Whitesell and Henderson, the nation's No.3-ranked Beach Tennis team, can't stop busting each other's chops. They rip on each other relentlessly.

Of course, it's all in good fun.

Whitesell constantly takes shots at the hefty Henderson's weight.

Henderson has jokingly called Whitesell's sexuality into question.

Whitesell says that Henderson has always been the Pippen to his Jordan, the Robin to his Batman.

He describes his partner as a rotund railsplitter who bails himself out via his powerful blast of a serve, one which few on American soil can counter.

Henderson claims to be the funnier one. He finds any attempt of humor by Whitesell--who played tennis at the University of Southern California--nothing short of torturous.

He also cracks on Whitesell's paper-thin frame, one which renders him an identical twin to "Telli" from the legendary 90s film, "Kids."

Whitesell begs to differ.

"I'm the funniest," he said.

"Though Chris may be the funniest looking. I'll give him that one... Anyone of any physical shape can play beach tennis. I think my partner is proof of that."

On the sand, it's business as usual. When the ball is in play, the jokes come to an abrupt halt.

The Whitesell-Henderson team made quick work of Guillermo Becerra and Ricky Lowy, local products who won the Amateur Paddle Division.

They ate up the competition in Jaws-size bites, though the team of Alfredo Galvez and Yakov Diskin was no slouch.

Galvez and Yakov (the perverted, immature compartment of my brain tells me Yakov sounds tremendously like "wackoff" and this guy must have had a tough time when school teachers would read his name off the attendance list) raised eyebrows this weekend.

Yakov, who hails from Yorktown, Va., had plenty of local support--including two die-hards sporting Yakov-Galvez chestpaint.

Whitesell and Henderson are uniform to a couple of gym rats (in this case, beach rats) in their preparation.

They scouted out the competition, hung out with opponents while sitting on the perimeter of the center court. They took note of other teams' habits and idiosyncrasies, practicing diligently in between games.

They did some mano y mano drills off the court. They kept their focus, composure, swagger, and persistence.

Of course, there was the occasional joke in between their workmanlike labor.

There were no jokes Sunday afternoon. None of the friendly, workaday ego clashes between the two would materialize.

No verbal bashings or outbursts of laughter. Nothing of the sort.

Just a dominant, tantalizing Beach Tennis tandem that fended off a surprise run by Johann Vavarud and Niclas Kohler. And so the Whitesell-Henderson squad put the medal to the floor, capturing the championship of the 2009 Virginia Beach Blast.

Behind Whitesell's jet-quick antics (this guy anticipates every serve like he just inhaled 40 milligrams of adderal) and fundamentally sound approach coupled with Henderson's rocket serves (the behemoth accidently shattered someone's glasses during a recent tournament), the South Carolina natives rolled to a convincing victory, 8-2.



"We came here on business," said Henderson, who sported a permasmile while hoisting the glistening trophy above his broad shoulders.

Henderson, whose serves handcuffed the Vavarud-Kohler duo at crucial junctures, is pepped and prepped for the ensuing challenge.

"Our goal was to drive home with the trophy sitting in our backseat," Henderson said.

"We know we have a shot at (defending national champions) Matteo (Marighella) and Alex (Mingozzi)...Whenever they land on U.S. soil, we want to play them."


During a rare moment, Henderson's serious and competitive side surfaced.

"When they get here, when they come to New York (for the national championship), we'll be ready."

Beach Tennis USA president Jim Lorenzo has jokingly told the two that this could be their last year on the national tour. Both players are on the wrong side of 30, though they won't be hanging up the rackets and sand socks anytime soon.

Once the newcomers soaking in the intricacies of the beach sport, Whitesell and Henderson are have become the grand old professors.

The two could be looking at a career in broadcasting Beach Tennis games next year, as Lorenzo quipped.

Whitesell and Henderson know Lorenzo's words were in jest and won't prove prophetic. Still, it only added fuel to the fire.

Next Stop: San Diego, where the 2009 National Tour resumes with Evolution Home Theater's Beach Tennis Smash.