Randy Angel

Beach tennis tourney combines local, international flavor

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Beach tennis has inspired Russian-born Katya Chirkina to move to the South Bay. Photo by Randy Angel

Beach tennis has inspired Russian-born Katya Chirkina to move to the South Bay. Photo by Randy Angel

Three hours before Katya Chirkina was to meet with a realtor to assist her in moving from San Diego to the South Bay, the Russian-born athlete was in Hermosa Beach on Sunday playing the sport that influenced her relocation.

After teaming with Brazilian Nyala Hordones on Saturday to win the Pro Women’s Doubles title in the Mid Summer’s Day beach tennis tournament presented by the Beach Tennis Association and Car2Go, Chirkina was looking for her second title during the weekend competing in the Women’s Singles tournament.

“My fiancée introduced me to beach tennis when we lived in New York and they were playing with racquets,” said Chirkina, who has been living in the United States for 10 years and the last three in San Diego. “I’m not a tennis player and I started playing with a racquet right away so it was easy for me to learn. When the sport went to paddles, many players dropped out but others caught on.

“The World Team Championship is being held in Moscow in July so beach tennis is really growing around the world. I plan to move to Manhattan or Hermosa Beach because there is good competition here and playing in the sand is a good workout. This is where the action is.”

Hordones, who has been living in La Jolla, came to Hermosa Beach to play in one more beach tennis tournament before returning home to Rio de Janeiro in time for the World Cup quarterfinals this weekend.

A snow boarding accident led Hermosa Beach’s Scott Worden to competition on the beach tennis circuit. Photo by Randy Angel

A snow boarding accident led Hermosa Beach’s Scott Worden to competition on the beach tennis circuit. Photo by Randy Angel

It was a successful weekend for Hordones who won three titles at the event. After winning the Women’s Doubles crown with Chirkina by defeating the Palos Verdes team of Randy Dauchot and Jamie Pagliano, she captured the Women’s Singles championship with a win over Long Beach’s Yolanda Duron and the Mixed Doubles title with partner Alex Querna of Redondo Beach, who defeated the husband-wife team of Scott and Paige Worden on Sunday.

“I’ve been playing beach tennis for three years but it hasn’t grown much in San Diego so I come up here to play,” said Hordones, who also competes in international beach tennis tournaments. “I played tennis and beach volleyball but this is a much more relaxing sport and you still get to be outside while getting great exercise. People take it more easily, cheering is more spontaneous and playing in the sand is good exercise.”

Hordones, who plans to attend the 2016 Olympic Games in her hometown, hopes to see beach tennis in the Olympic Games one day.

“There are many people trying to make beach tennis an Olympic sport but I think it will take a while,” Hordones said. “It’s very popular in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. In fact, there’s a big tournament in Barcelona in two weeks. It’s catching on world wide.”

During the last five years, many of the top athletes in beach volleyball from around the world have come to the beach cities of Hermosa and Manhattan to train in the deep sand while honing their skills against high-caliber competition.

Beach tennis is following suit.

Four years ago, tennis coach and beach tennis standout Donny Young approached the Hermosa Beach City Council requesting two permanent beach tennis courts at 14th Street and The Strand.

Not only has Young, a Hermosa Beach resident and founder and president of the Beach Tennis Association, acquired three courts in Hermosa Beach which owns its own beach, but has expanded to the Los Angeles County-owned sands in Manhattan Beach that now provides beach tennis courts at 7th Street and The Strand.

“Beach tennis is all inclusive,” said Young, “All ages and skill levels can play in a competitive, yet great family atmosphere.”

Young founded West Coast Beach Tennis after playing professionally on the ATP. He was named one of the top hard-court coaches in the world by Tennis Weekly Magazine in 1998 coaching three Grand Slam championship players.

Young teamed with fellow Hermosa Beach resident Sammy Keeton, defeating Marty Salokas (Redondo Beach) and Sou Umezaki (Irvine) to win the Pro Men’s Doubles title on Saturday, Young captured the Men’s Singles title on Sunday with a victory over Hermosa Beach’s Scott Worden.

Worden said he first noticed beach tennis after riding his bike on The Strand. He and his wife Paige were runners-up in the Mixed Doubles event on Sunday.

“I used to ride by these guys all the time when I used to go surfing,” I played a lot of beach volleyball before a snow boarding accident limited my jumping ability. I found beach tennis to be little bit easier on the impact on my ankle and I got hooked right away. That was three seasons ago and now I’m here every weekend. It’s the most fun I’ve had on the beach. It’s a community of great people who enjoy the sport. I’ve even started traveling to tournaments in Florida. Much like beach volleyball, it’s the same-type group of people and we have a great time for a couple of days but with a much smaller group.

Long Beach’s Monica Rojas returns the ball during the Women’s Singles competition. Photo by Randy Angel

Long Beach’s Monica Rojas returns the ball during the Women’s Singles competition. Photo by Randy Angel

“I’ve made international friendships with players from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil. We stay in contact and the sport is growing in Florida, New York and here in the South Bay as well.”

Worden lost in the semifinals of the Men’s Doubles tournament but held his head high.

“We lost to Donny (Young) but we gave them three sets so I’m proud of that. Donny is almost impossible to beat.”

Mark Keil, a former professional tennis player and current resident of Kauai, Hawaii competed in the Mid Summer’s Day tournament while gaining advice from Young as Kiel builds the sport of beach tennis on the Islands. He was introduced to beach tennis when meeting Young in 2008

“When the rules were changed rules from racquet to paddle I fell in love with it more,” Keil said. “I’m training her because Donny is the Pioneer of Beach Tennis on the west coast. He’s done so much for the sport. There are only a few places in the country with permanent nets. I hope to someday have the same situation in Hawaii. Donny is to beach tennis what Laird Hamilton is to surfing

Keil has a strong tennis background. He won five ATP World Tour doubles tournaments and in singles competition, defeated Pete Sampras, (then ranked No. 8 in the world) in straight sets in the 1991 Queens Club Championships

Young’s wife, Ginger, serves as a promoter, director and liaison for the sport.

“When Donny told me of his plans of building the sport, I knew right then my weekends would be booked,” Ginger said with a laugh after installing nets, securing boundary tape and setting up promotional signs for sponsors such as Car2Go and Shock Top Beer.

Yolanda Duron, head women’s tennis coach at the University of La Verne, traveled from her home in Long Beach to compete on Sunday.

“My first introduction to beach tennis came when I went online and saw that a tournament was being held in Long Beach,” Duron said. “It was so much fun and I went to the finals in my first tournament so they kept inviting me back and now can’t get rid of me. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a way of getting away from every day life. Donny and Ginger do such a great job of making everyone feel welcome so why wouldn’t you want to come back. It’s really neat to be a part of. It’s like a family.”

Beach Tennis was first played in Ravenna, Italy in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1978, the first beach tennis tournament was held and by 2003, the sport began to reach other parts of the world including Buglaria, Germany, France, Poland, Australia, Brazil, Bermuda and to the island of Aruba, where Beach Tennis USA (BTUSA) founder Marc Altheim discovered the sport.

In 2004, BTUSA was founded and at the 2009 National Championship where paddles were used instead of conventional tennis rackets in its first ever “Paddle Battle,” the success of the paddle’s debut prompted the BTUSA to officially adopted the use of the paddle to facilitate the unification of the many international Beach Tennis associations throughout Europe, South America and Asia.

In 2010, BTUSA announced a partnership with The International Tennis Federation (ITF), the world governing body of Tennis and Beach Tennis that named BTUSA as the governing body of Beach Tennis in the United States

Upcoming events Hermosa Beach include the Endless Summer (Aug. 23-24), Indian Summer (Sept. 27-28) and Halloween (Oct, 25-26) tournaments.

Open play is held every weekend at 12 p.m. at the courts in Hermosa Beach. Paddles are available for those who don’t have them.

For more information or to register, log on to westcoastbeachtennis.net.

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