In the summer, everyone likes to put their toes in the sand and play on the beach. Combine that affinity with some competitive fun, music, food/drinks, beach games and great people, and you have the recipe for the summer’s hottest tournament, The New York Beach Tennis Open.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, NY Beach Tennis (NYBT) hosted The New York Beach Tennis Open at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, N.Y. Crest Hollow features four sand courts in its "tropically-landscaped backyard," just steps away from its pool, making it an ideal spot for NY Beach Tennis events.
Two years ago, NY Beach Tennis was created to bring the sport an infusion of players and direction in the Northeast. NYBT held four sold out tournaments, along with a large membership base for leagues and weekly play. After taking a one-year hiatus from tournament play, NYBT returned in the Summer of 2016, with open play all summer long and a tournament, both in the Hamptons and at Crest Hollow.
In its first tournament of 2016, NYBT picked up where it left off with a sold-out tournament for both men and women.
"The best part of this particular event was the large amount of new tournament players but also our success in bringing in many high level tennis players,” said David Sickmen, NYBT founder, and pro beach tennis player. "When you have high level athletes, especially those with racquet skills, they can pick this sport up very quickly making for a highly competitive draw."
Competition is always fierce on the court, but the camaraderie off the court is of major significance as well. NYBT competitors get along really well and had tons of fun together. The night before the tournament, there was an open practice for competitors and then a group of players, attended the Goo Goo Dolls concert at Nikon Theater at Jones Beach, and the second night, NYBT gave competitors tickets to attend a NY Cosmos soccer game in Garden City or the Mets game in Flushing so that people could spend time together off the sand.
Alex Pop Moldovan, professional tennis coach of Olympic Silver Medalist Florin Mergea and a pro beach tennis player, agreed that the camaraderie is key.
"I met a whole group of amazing people,” said Pop Moldovan. “Many of them are local tennis players and teaching pros. It was a great experience again out there in the sand. The hottest weekend of this year didn't stop any of us from trying to win it all. There are still more battles to win and I cannot wait for the next tournament."
NYBT certainly made sure all the players and onlookers were entertained during the tournament. Music played in the background, courtesy of DJ MeganC, as players mingled around the Jamba Juice Player’s Hut, which offered complimentary smoothies. John McEnroe Tennis Academy provided an area for beach games, where Cornhole Ring Toss, Kan Jam and Spikeball were big hits.
"NYBT creates the ultimate tournament experience for anyone who loves racket sports, from the novice to the most seasoned players,” said Meryl Otis Kessler, beach tennis player and Crest Hollow Country Club member. “It was terrific sharing the day and competing with such a fun group, and I look forward to many more NYBT events in the future."
This was an event that brought together players of all ages, but the main demographic was college tennis players. There were 25 college players and another 10 high school players, to go along with some of the more seasoned beach tennis players. One of the new players was Gustavo Loza, a former standout at St. John’s University, who just won the U.S. Open National Playoffs Eastern Section Doubles event. Playing in his first beach tennis tournament along with St. John’s teammate Hugh McDonald, the duo reached the quarterfinals before falling to Roey Heymann, college tennis player at Adelphi, and Michael Nelson, who plays his collegiate tennis at SUNY Oneonta.
"It was definitely a great event … it's a great way to combine fun with competitiveness, and why not also attract some new beach tennis players to tennis and vice-versa,” said Loza. “I am looking forward to playing again!”
"I am already looking forward to next summer,” said Heymann. “Playing beach tennis with all the guys and girls who are part of the NYBT group is one of the things I look forward to all year."
“NYBT has infused life into the beach tennis community in New York the last few Summers, using its vast resources to create a young, athletic and talented base of players that is growing” said Sickmen. “There is such a positive buzz around what we are doing, and so many good tennis players and athletes who are getting involved. To have full draws, professional organization, beautiful clubs to play at both in Woodbury and in the Hamptons, and great people involved, has made it a fun summer on the sand for myself and many others. All over the world, I keep hearing about prize money and rankings. I play in those tournaments too, but that won't grow the sport here in the U.S. We need a grassroots push. There are a few great people in Florida and California who are doing it the right way, and we are trying to do the same here. The players here are playing solely because NYBT has created a professional and organized environment with an amazing group of people. Rankings and prize money are great, but the truth is that even without it, if we had enough courts, we could've had 150 players in this event. Everyone is just having fun!”
It's been a great summer for NYBT so far, but it isn't done yet. Speaking of the tennis/beach tennis crossover, NYBT will hold the NYBT Hamptons Invitational this coming weekend. Pro tennis players and pro beach tennis players will square off on the sand in an exhibition event many from both worlds are looking forward to. With the ocean just steps away and the forecast looking bright, it will be a great way to close the 2016 beach tennis season in New York.