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Brazil is quickly becoming the new heart of beach tennis and the future of the sport may likely be defined by its rapid growth throughout South America.Matteo Marighella
In commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of BEACHCLUB2010®, we wanted to give a voice to our friends and faithful companions who have been by our side throughout our journey. We spoke to players, organizers and commentators about their beach tennis stories. You can find them in the following interviews.
Matteo Marighella, 41, was born in Ravenna/Italy and this is how he describes the start of his career: "Since I was a kid my greatest passion was soccer until at the age of 14 I discovered - almost by coincidence - this beautiful sport beach tennis. A friend of mine invited me to Bagno Pierpaolo in Punta Marina just to spend an afternoon at the beach, and that's when I first took a beach tennis racket in my hand. During that time beach tennis was only the classical sunday pastime, the game was played with wooden rackets and the rules were different, but that was exactly when I got hit by beach tennis. I started playing dayly in the summer, and at the age of 16 I got in touch with my first tournaments held nearby. Starting in summer 1999 I got involved in the tour organized by IFBT and there I got to know the best players around."
In the following years Matteo Marighella starts winning national and international tournaments, in 2007 together with Alex Mingozzi he wins 20 out of 22 events played. After the ITF gets involved Matteo continues his successful play, he wins the European Championships in 2010 and 2015, the World Championships in mixed doubles in 2013 together with Sofia Cimatti and in doubles 2015 with his fellow countryman Michele Cappelletti.
In our interview he talkes about his biggest wins, the future of beach tennis and the importance of his family.
How is Tommy doing with his first steps in beach tennis?
Let's say that it's a little bit early for him. He likes all ball sports. Let's wait and see ...
In what way has your life changed since your son was born in 2017?
My life has changed completely. Tommy is the center of attraction now .. everything is turning around him, so everything regarding sports comes second now.
And how has beach tennis changed in these past three years?
Beach tennis is changing very fast, thanks to the new rules. But especially the athletisism of the male players has grown a lot.
Are you happy to have been there when beach tennis started growing or would you rather be Tommy and see how the sport continues developing?
I'd say that I saw all the steps beach tennis took since the beginning - starting with the wooden rackets to the ones in carbon, from the first events in Marina di Ravenna to the international tournaments like Aruba ... so I'm happy like it is, and very curious how it's going to be in the upcoming years.
What do you think about the future of beach tennis? In what way the sport could grow?
Brazil is quickly becoming the new heart of beach tennis and the future of the sport may likely be defined by its rapid growth throughout South America, like it happened then in all beach sports. If we want a chance to get to the Olympics we have to lean on that considering the strong support the brazilian olympic comittee shows for beach tennis.
In your home country Italy instead beach tennis seems to be slowing down. Less events, a lot of players who stop playing, especially young players. Why is that and how could it be stopped?
Beach tennis in Italy is going through a more static moment but it's not decreasing. Numbers of participants in the Italian beach tennis schools show that, they are increasing. Perhaps the biggest problems come when players try to make the next step to become a semi professional or professional player.
You are involved in beach tennis for a long time now. You discovered the game at the age of 14 in Marina di Ravenna, when it was only the classical sunday pastime, it was played with wooden rackets and different rules. What memories do you have of that period?
Great memories. I can still remember my first match, wooden racket, tennis ball and a lot of enthusiasm. It seems unbelievable what happened after that first match.
A long time ago, in 1999, you started participating at IFBT tournaments. You improved fast and soon won tournaments. What brought you to that point?
In the beginning it was just fun and a lot of passion. I really think that the love for the game was the secret for my career steps.
In the first years of this millennium the first foreign players came to the world championships of IFBT. In the final of the team competition of the 2003 edition you won the final against the German team. How important was the addition of foreign players to the game of beach tennis on your beaches?
The foreign players were the first step to make beach tennis an international sport.
It was exactly in 2003 when you won the titel in men's doubles with Paolo Tazzari. But the most important change came when you paired up with Alex Mingozzi. You wrote a huge page of beach tennis history. From 2007 to 2009 you were almost imbeatable. What was the secret of this team? When and why did you plit up then? What did you keep from that relationship?
All of my teamates were important for me, but teaming up with Alex was an incredible part of my career. In my opinion we lifted beach tennis to a very high level during those years. Maybe because we introduced a more professional spirit with specific training and athletic preperation; that was new back then. Our secret was the friendship that binded us together and continues to this day (even if right now we have to keep it at a long distance, I have to admit that I miss him here in Italy). The split up wasn’t easy, but we both needed some new stimulus (and in fact it worked out well for both uf us, we had a lot of success afterwards). But I think the M2 made a significant impact to the scene.
You had success around the world: New York, Bermuda, La Reunion ecc. What victory did you keep in mind the most and why?
Maybe the victory in New York is the most significent one, we played with tennis rackets (which were not our natural rackets), the athmosphere was incredible and the croud was huge.
Thinking about the start of this millennium, when the events were organized by IFBT, continuing with the difficult period with FIT and then later the entry of ITF to the scene - what dou you think about the development of this sport? What did the ITF bring to the game?
The ITF brought the international footprint to our sport and I hope that it can make us take the final step to the Olympics.
Not only did the ITF change the net height, the federation tries some other things to improve the sport. How can these changes help the growth of beach tennis?
It's the right thing to try to improve the sport, but the most important thing is not to change its natural game. So if chenges should be made in the future they have to be well discussed. Especially with the players, who are the ones to make the changes work.
A huge problem in the beach tennis world is the lack of a big sponsor that could help bringing beach tennis in TV. You work with adidas for years now. How could we find an agreement for beach tennis in general?
Beach tennis needs an important media push. In Italy padel tennis had a big improvement just with the help of the media. We are waiting for that. In Brazil that is what's happening, so let's hope for it here, too.
Let's devide the story of beach tennis in two decades - 2000 to 2009 and 2010 to 2019 - how would you describe the differences from a sportive point of view and from your personal point of view?
The first decade beach tennis was seen as a fun sport and pastime in the summer. In the second decade it became a sport played 365 days a year with tournaments organized throughout the year.
Which are the most significant players or teams for the development of beach tennis?
It's very difficult to name these, because there are way too many in the different eras.
And who has been your toughest opponent in those years?
Starting with Lele Bianchedi, Maurizio Di Cori, Antonio Trubia, Gianluca Chirico to Paolo Tazzari, Marco Garavini, Nicola Gambi, Alan Maldini, then Luca Meliconi, Luca Carli, Michele Cappelletti, Luca Cramarossa ... Too many names, so great players.
In 2013 you won the mixed doubles title at the WC in Cervia with Sofia Cimatti. Two years later you won the men's doubles title with Michele Cappelletti. How important were these titles for you?
They were very important. The mixed title because I missed that one, the title in the men's doubles because after the victories with IFBT I wanted to win with ITF, too.
The fixed point of beach tennis in Italy, the center of beach tennis worldwide, has been Ravenna, then for six years the Bagno Delfino in Cervia. Starting in 2019 the Emiglia-Romagna region lost the WC. What impact does this development have for beach tennis and for the region where you grew up?
The WC in Cervia has been a reference point for the past years, a unique place and atmosphere where you could breath the passion for this sport. But it's the right thing that beach tennis finds new locations in Italy and worldwide. That is the result of the international aspect. But I have to admit that I'm missing a big event in Marina di Ravenna, where it all startet.
In the Italian national team you never played a decisive role. Why is that? And why Italy couldn't win the title at the World Team Championships since 2017?
I have asked that myself a lot (laughs). Let's say that some times I did not understand very will the criteria for the nomination, without being polemic. Let's say that Italy potentually has the best team, because it can chose from a huge number of players. But it's not easy to win right now, because other nations with less players to chose from are more organized and better prepared.
You were going through a bad period with an eye illness. How did you come out of that?
In 2016 maybe I was experiencing a second spring, I had won all the important tournaments and at the same time I had been Italien champion indoor and outdoor, world champion and european champion, and I had made it back to the number one ranking. Then the cold shower, an illness in my red eye made me almost completely lose my view. I had to stay out of the game for that summer, a very difficult period. My view then came back, but it took me a lot of time to get back my confidence on the court.
Beach tennis in Germany is growing slowly. What advice can you give us?
You already have some good players in Germany. Maybe tennis is still too strong and is slowing down the movement. But I think that the main problem is the lack of beach tennis facilities where you can play in the winter month.
Your relationship with Germany is long, in 2003 you visited us for the first time after we got to know each other at the WC in Marina di Ravenna that summer. Later you came back to the Porsche Beach Tennis Grand Prix and other events. This year our BEACHCLUB2010® is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. What are your favorite memories?
All my memories are great, but the event at Porsche arena remains one of the best locations I played. Unbelievable.
If everything goes as planned in 2021 you will help us as a coach when we organize our beach tennis camp in Cervia. What are your expectations and why do you like coaching foreign players who were not growing up with beach tennis?
I'm looking forward to it! I like to pass on my passion for the game especially to players that just startet playing beach tennis. At the end of the past summer I had the chance to work with Alex Bailer and I saw how much your movement can still grow. I await you motivated!
For years now you work as a coach. What is your coaching method?
I like to teach, pass something on and stay in touch with my students. I always try to keep up with the times and changes in beach tennis, so my way of teaching has also changed a lot over the years.
After the events in Germany you also came visiting us at the Beach Tennis Tour Liguria in 2019. What do you think about this tour in Spotorno and Finale Ligure? How can we improve our events?
Two tournaments organized very well, great guys, in fact I'd like to say hello to the guys from Beach Tennis Savona. It's not easy to improve what you have already done; maybe you could try to find a weekend in the middle of summer for your event.
It seems very difficult to establish beach tennis in Liguria. You had been in Albisola for an exhibition event in 2006, when you were busy collecting the rocks from the cort. What advice can you give us for the development of beach tennis in this region?
It's not easy to find a lot of locations in Liguria, so the main problem is this. The indoor facility in Spotorno is great, so maybe some more of those should be found and more players will come to play.
In your career you travelled the world. What are your favorite places?
Beach tennis gave me the possibility to travel the world, incredible places like Bermuda, Aruba or Japan.
These days you celebrated your 41st birthday in a very particular period. How did you manage this past season? What is your idea for your future with beach tennis?
Yea, 41 years, incredible. My 2020 unfortunately, like for all the others, has been less active in beach tennis because of the virus. I hope that I can become more active on the courts in 2021 both as a player and coach.
During all the important matches you have had great support from your parents at courtside. Family has always been of great importance for you. How do you see your role as father of Tommy together with your wife Chiara?
My family has always been my main support. Also Chiara helped me a lot and she has been one of the secrets for my second spring from 2014 to 2016. Always present but never invading. I hope that my son will find passion for a sport and I hope that I can support him like my parents have done for me throughout the years.
So we can hope to see another great player with the name of Marighella on the courts?
I would love to see my son on the beach tennis courts, see him make all the experiences I made. If he choses another sport, that would be no problem - it would mean that I have to continue playing until I'm 60 years old (laughs).
Maximilian Hamm, December 2020