Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Paddle Battle: Day 1 Of Beach Tennis USA's National Championship

Don’t look now, but paddles could potentially take over Beach Tennis USA, the burgeoning sand sport.

The reigning national champions, Matteo Marighella and Alex Mingozzi, showcased their prolific 1-2 punch with the paddles, the Beach Tennis tool of choice.

There has been a slight uproar over which is more suitable for players.

During Day 1 of the National Championships in Long Beach, N.Y., the paddles proved proficient.

It’s a different animal than your workaday tennis racket. Playing with the paddle is better for those at the novice level. It permits players to be quicker off their feet.

It makes for a better workout, allowing any athlete worth their salt to get acclimatized to the sport.

The first game of the Paddle Battle during Day One of the Beach Tennis USA National Championship pitted Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell against Robert Liska and Scott Kauffman.

It was the first time the Whitesell-Henderson tandem had used the rackets in tournament competition.

In paddle action, the court is a yard shorter. The meticulous Whitesell, he of
the spikey serve and baffling backhand (few teams on American soil can solve it), helped the duo jump out of the gates strong.

Setting the tone, the hefty Henderson (who's rapidly become known as the "dense demon") slammed balls into the sand and kept Liska-Kauffman off-balance.

Kauffman-Liska used their wit and grit to keep within striking distance .

A paddle battle ensued, with Kaufman-Liska using their court sense to capture the
first set.

Slowly, the South Carolina tandem started clicking. They came roaring back from the deficit, soon making quick work of their opponent.

The 2005-06 national champions and no.2-ranked Beach Tennis team in America, officially lost their paddle virginity today.

“I’ll tell you what, we got a long way to go,” said Whitesell, the paper-slim ego maniac and former College of Charleston tennis coach.

“We’ve got a lot to learn, we just need to watch and learn and try to get better,” said Whitesell, adding that the paddles create a level playing field for everyone except those from Italy.

Whitesell and Henderson aren’t the only professionals taking baby steps with the paddles.

“It’s fair game across the board except for the Italians," noted Whitesell.

The paddles are the essential beach tennis tools in Italy.

Marighella, whose rise to surefire stardom kick-started 10 years ago, has been playing with the paddle for 14 years.

He’s established himself as a national icon in Italy, where Beach Tennis is a major professional sport.