Is it tennis? Volleyball? Somewhere in between? Whatever - it's fun
Merging tennis and volleyball, beach tennis has taken root on Kite Beach. Benita Adesuyan picks up a racket.
‘You just need to tap it – don’t swing,’ advises Bernard Aoun, as we get a bit carried away at our beach tennis session. We’ve started to channel a little too much Serena Williams as the bright orange balls fly out of the court’s boundaries.
Beach tennis is, as the name suggests, very similar to standard tennis but look closer and you’ll see there are a number of differences that make this bare-footed variation a different sport entirely.
Bernard Aoun, is the managing partner / founder of Beach Tennis Middle East (BTME) and a former tennis player himself. He explains how the game works. ‘It’s like a combination of tennis and volleyball. The size of the court is 16m x 8m, the same as a volleyball court, so the game is usually played as a doubles format, but you can play half the court one-on-one, too. The scoring system is the same as tennis – 15, 30, 40 only there’s no advantage at 40-40.’
At BTME’s courts on Kite Beach, there are four courts for what Aoun believes is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Having founded the company last year and watched the first games in February he’s seen the sport grow immensely. Within its first few months, BTME has amassed a database of more than 350 regular players. ‘It started with people only coming on the weekend and then people started asking if we were open every day, morning and evening and so far the feedback is great.’
Beach tennis is an official sport and is recognised by the International Tennis Federation. This year the French Open had a showcase game with players from France, Brazil and Italy exhibiting and promoting the sport. It’s also popular with lawn tennis players with Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams all supposed fans of their game’s alternate version.
On the day we hit the courts on Kite Beach, Bernard puts us through a circuit warm-up so we can get used to moving around on the sand. Running and jumping on the sand helps to exercise the smaller muscles in the body because you have to grip with your toes more when you move. Regular users of Kite Beach will notice a distinct difference underfoot at BTME - sand is soft and free of small rocks and shells for the safety of the players
Think of beach tennis as akin to a competitive game of bat and ball. Not only that, it’s a good workout and the BTME team has also introduced a fitness session to bring new players to the game. ‘I don’t do cardio at the gym anymore,’ says Aoun. ‘I do it all on the beach – it’s a beautiful place to be right here by the sea.’
The current construction of the new 14km Jumeirah Corniche (due to complete by end of the year) is currently obstructing Bernard’s ocean view, but once that’s all done he’ll have one of the best views on the strip over the coming months, with the Burj Al Arab on the left. The area is due to get more sports facilities and a jogging track so it seems he got in at the right time.
‘We want badminton players, squash players, tennis and padel players to come together – we want the local talent from here to represent the UAE outside of Dubai. We also want to bring international tournaments here – we have the courts set up already and they all meet the certified standard.’
Aoun is also planning to add lights to the courts enabling people to play during the cooler evenings in the near future. BTME operates a rotation system that allows players to practise all day but with different partners. Aoun is keen to emphasise the social aspect of the set-up as well. ‘We’ve created a community here. People come, play sport and meet people – they have the same interests, they play together and become friends outside the courts – it’s formed naturally.’
Beach tennis is ideal if you’re one of those people who gets utterly bored on the beach or are looking for an outdoor workout. Whichever applies, just remember to keep a close eye on your swing. Dhs80 per court, per hour, Dhs60 for the second and subsequent hours, Mon-Sat 7.30am-noon, 3pm-7pm, Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim, www.btmesports.com (055 268 6090).
Other racket sports
Padel Tennis Padel fuses tennis, squash, and racquetball. Played in doubles format outdoors or indoors, the court is one third the size of a tennis court and it has walls that can be played off. Real Racquet United Arab Emirates Emirates Golf Club, Dubai www.realracquetacademy.com (04 380 5424).
Dubai Table Tennis Academy Ping pong players can enjoy tournaments, and regular games with some the city’s top players. And If you want perfect your game you can get training here too. Al Shabab Club, Al Mamzar, www.dubaitta.com (052 959 1775).