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Beach tennis gains popularity across Latin America

Beach tennis gains popularity across Latin America

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 25, 2014

The sport, created in Italy more than two decades ago, is entering its golden age, thanks to the recognition granted to it by the International Tennis Federation, or ITF, in 2010, a move that has aficionados dreaming of adding the game to the Olympics.

Italy is still at the sport's epicenter, but beach tennis is gaining ground in other places, especially in Latin America, where Brazil is now one of the main countries where the game is played outside Europe.

Brazil's Vinicius Font is ranked No. 3 in the world among male beach tennis players, while Joana Cortez and Flavia Muniz are No. 4 and No. 5 in the world, respectively, among female players. "In Brazil, the sport arrived in 2008 and it has grown quite a bit in recent years. It's a sport with lots of potential due to the large number of beaches we have," Cortez said.

People in Venezuela, Brazil's northern neighbor, have also embraced the sport. Many Venezuelans, in fact, competed in the Beach Tennis Open in the Caribbean island of Aruba over the weekend.

Beach tennis clubs have opened in the Venezuelan cities of Caracas, Valencia, Acarigua and Barquisimeto. Jorge Peñalver, who is ranked No. 16 in the world in beach tennis, said Venezuela had a number of "very strong" young players.

"It's growing a lot in Latin America. It started in Brazil and it's spreading. In Venezuela, there is a lot of growth in beach tennis, (and) we have been competing for three years on the tour and are in the top 20," Peñalver, who lost in the quarterfinals in Aruba with his brother, Pedro, said.

Argentina, the country along with Spain where paddle ball reigns, welcomed beach tennis a year ago, but the South American country has just one unlighted court.

"I come from paddle ball, I left that sport two months ago because I wanted to focus professionally on beach tennis. All the players come from paddle ball, very few from tennis. It's pretty similar in terms of the shots, the contact with the racket," Alin Wirth, an Argentine player ranked No. 300 in the world, said.

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