The 2009 Beach Tennis USA National Championship demonstrated two days of exciting, fast-paced action. For the first time ever, the National Championship in the United States featured a “Paddle Battle,” in addition to the regular racquet competition. The National Championships are held in our backyard, in Long Beach, N.Y., and in addition to the extreme competition, the National Championship also has a beach party feel to it with a stage, food, drinks and music.
On Saturday, Sept. 5, teams from all over the world competed, using paddles, rather than conventional tennis racquets. The European athletes in attendance, who have played with paddles for years, were the teams to beat in this tournament.
In the Men’s Pro Division finals, it was two Italian teams that would square off: Gianluca Chirico and Massimo Mattei from Ravenna, Italy versus Maurizio DiCori and Emanuele Bianchedi, also from Ravenna, Italy. Both teams are very familiar with the sport of beach tennis, having competed in more than 100 tournaments in Italy, combined. Although DiCori and Bianchedi were newcomers to American sand, it was no detriment to their game, as they defeated Chirico and Matei by a score of 8-5. In the Men’s Amateur Division, Team Top Gun, Long Island Tennis Magazine's own David Sickmen and Jared Rada shocked the crowd by winning the championship their first ever National Tournament, defeating two seasoned Beach Tennis players, the Johnson Brothers from Buffalo, N.Y., by a count of 8-2 in the finals on Center Court. It was a great win for David and Jared who were playing as a team for the first time.
Over on the Ladies Pro Division, the finals match consisted of two Southern California teams: Lee Whitwell and Joslynn Burkett from San Diego versus Lucy Streeter and Kristen Flagler from Hermosa Beach, Calif. Flagler and Streeter knocked out Nadia Johnston from Long Beach, N.Y. and Nicole Melch from Cresskill, N.J. in the semi-finals to advance, however, they were no match for the duo from San Diego, as they easily captured the first Paddle Battle title by a score of 8-4.
Sunday, Sept. 6 featured the tennis racquet version of the 2009 Beach Tennis USA National Championship. In the Men’s Pro Division, two-time defending champions Matteo Marighella and Alex Mingozzi from Ravenna, Italy advanced to the finals to face off against former national champions Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell from Charleston, S.C. Henderson and Whitesell, who won titles in 2005 and 2006, were eager to defeat the Italians and bring the trophy back to the U.S. In dramatic fashion, the pair of Americans stunned the crowd as they delivered powerful serves, which was enough to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Italian team, 8-6. Team Top Gun of David Sickmen and Jared Rada were back on Sunday, this time playing in the Pro Division. The duo more than held their own and defeated both an American team and a team from the Czech Republic, advancing to the round of 16 before falling to a top-rated and much more seasoned Italian squad.
In the Ladies Pro Division, it was the duo from San Diego yet again who would advance to the finals, as Lee Whitwell and Joslynn Burkett would face the hometown hero from Long Beach, Nadia Johnston, and her partner, Nicole Melch, who have been unstoppable in the tournaments in which they competed this season. The only thing fiercer than competition was the wind that made it very difficult to serve the ball. But the ladies battled through and seemed to be on par since a tie-breaker set was necessary. The San Diego team proved to be too much for Melch and Johnston, as they gained and maintained momentum in the tie-breaker set to win it by a score of 9-8(5). Whitwell and Burkett cleaned up in Long Beach, winning both the Paddle Battle finals and the 2009 Beach Tennis National Championship.
The staff of Long Island Tennis Magazine was on hand for the entire weekend tournament supporting the event, taking photos, and passing out magazines to the many spectators who had come by to watch.
Look for a recap of the Beach Tennis season on the Tennis Channel in October and November, and look forward to the 2010 Beach Tennis USA season.
Scenes From the 2009 Beach Tennis USA National Championship
September 5-6 in Long Beach, N.Y.
Mark Altheim, Beach Tennis USA president, welcomes attendees to the National Championships in Long Beach, N.Y.
Lauren Francesca and Jared Rada, tennis director at Sportime Roslyn, pause for a photo
“Special” Keenan Burton leads some singing and dancing on the main stage
Marty “The So-Cal Kid” Sokalas teams with Alex Mingozzi
Team Top Gun from Long Island Tennis Magazine, David Sickmen and Jared Rada, en route to the Beach Tennis Paddle Championship
Nadia Johnson and Nicole Melch, finalists at National Championships, during match play
The girls of Beach Tennis USA pause for a photo
Donald Young serving during his Beach Tennis USA match
Alex Mingozzi, two-time national Beach Tennis USA champion in Long Beach, N.Y.
Marty Sokalas (right) interviews one of the female beach tennis competitors