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From my point of view there has never been and I still haven't seen anybody making so much difference on the court when facing other top players. I always said, that there are three types of players: the great players, the phenomenal players, and then there's Marco Garavini.Paolo Tazzari
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.
Paolo Tazzari, 40, was born in Bologna/Italy, after his career as a player he moved to Rome. It was in 2009 already, when he founded his Beach Tennis School with the following ideas: Promotion and growth of the sport, development of professional players, tecnical improvement of players. Today BTS has 26 headquarters, 27 coaches and 1800 students. As a player Paolo Tazzari was famous for his tactical and spectacular game. In 2012 he won the title at the World Championships in Bulgaria with his partner Marco Garavini, in the final they beat Alessandro Calbucci and Luca Meliconi. After that event he retired. At the beginning of this millennium he played the IFBT tournaments, in 2003 he won the WC together with Matteo Marighella. In the following years he and Marco Garavini became one of the most dominant duos of this sport.
In our interview he talkes about his ritirement in 2012, about the best player of all time and his aim with his BTS.
Have you ever wondered: How many tournaments, how many world championship titles could I have won with Marco Garavini if I didn't ritire in 2012?
Honestly, no. When I decided to ritire I knew I had given everything I had as a player. I'm proud of what I have accomplished in this sport.
What were the reasons for your retirement after the World Championships in Bulgaria?
I had decided at the start of the season that it would be my last year. I felt like my aims had changed and that I wanted to do something else in beach tennis. That doesn't mean that I didn't miss playing and that I often still miss it today, but I knew that I had finished one cycle of my life and I had other projects and other challenges. I think of myself as a privileged man, because I had the chance to chose to step away, it weren't the results that made me understand.
You were born in Bologna and raised in Ravenna, the biggest stage was the center court in Cervia. And it seems that it was there, in front of your home, where you showed your best beach tennis. Why is that?
My game was always supported by a great mental strength and the ability to be able to handle a certain tension. On that center court you breath a different air. Everything is magnified and I liked that a lot, I enjoyed every moment on that court. In those days that was the tournament everybody wanted to win, and that increased the adrenalin and the tension. It stimulated me a lot, I think that was the main reason.
You have always been a spectacular player, unforgettable for example the three successive services as a lob at the WC in Cervia against Michele Cappelletti and Luca Carli. Other than that, how do you explain your big successes together with Marco Garavini?
My game was certainly different due to the fact that my fisical qualities were inferior to those of my opponents. That's why I always had to find alternatives to be able to compete against the top players. The successes with Marco Garavini were based on a special feeling we had on and outside the court. I believe that my determination, my desire to win and the game plan we developed allowed us to stay focused in the match. I knew that I had to keep the match in balance, because when Marco put "his" gear we would've won the game. From my point of view there has never been and I still haven't seen anybody making so much difference on the court when facing other top players. I always said, that there are three types of players: the great players, the phenomenal players, and then there's Marco Garavini.
Before you dominated the game there were Matteo Marighella/Alex Mingozzi, after your ritirement Marco Garavini had some success with Alessandro Calbucci, then Michele Cappelletti and Luca Carli became a winning team. How important is it to have a partner with whom you get along also off the court?
I've always thought that a close-knit team makes the difference, that in a sport where you don't have a lot of time to think about your next move, you are not two players on the court but have to act like one. But being a team on court is very difficult, especially in these days, because you are a real team only if you stay together when you don't make any results. It's very easy when you are winning. Today this theory is not very common, maybe because players are always in a hurry. But my idea remains that if you have the strenght to build a real team the results will be better.
What do you think about the development in beach tennis since it became an official sport of the ITF in 2009?
I think that the medium level increased a lot, while the top level, even if it increased, too, didn't do it at the same proportion. I think that this has to do with the fact that to date the top players cannot afford to be managed by a complete staff. And obviously raising your level when it's already very high is very complex.
And how did beach tennis change since the first years in Marina di Ravenna with the IFBT tournaments?
I guess you can say everything, we switched from a wonderful game to a wonderful sport.
At the beginning of this millennium the first foreign players came to Marina di Ravenna to participate at the IFBT World Championships. Italy in 2003 won the final against the German team. What memories do you have of those years?
Those were wonderful years. I was still young and able to do the thing I loved. For me it was great when all the foreign players arrived, I felt important and lucky to be part of this moment.
Beach tennis has been an Italian sport, even after the ITF got involved in 2009. Now we have a lot of foreign players winning tournaments and also the titles of the World Championships. How important was this development for the sport of beach tennis?
I think that it is very important for beach tennis to have all those top foreign players. At the same time though it should make us Italians reflect because we were on top of the world but now we are losing ground. The fact that players from all over the world became so strong is a great thing, but at the same time it shows us that it was our own fault that we lost ground.
In 2009 already, before you left the beach tennis scene as a player, you thought about sharing your experiences and founded the Beach Tennis School BTS. What were your ideas when you started and how did this project develop since then?
As I said before I never had the quality of the other top players, so I always thought that I need to know more about the game to be competitive. I have always studied the tactics to beat them and the tecnique to be able to achieve the level of tecnical play I had. I invested a lot in this and it brought me results. At that point I started to teach what I had learned and I received confirmation that I was on the right path. I didn't want to limit this experience and this knowledgde only in one center, so we decided to found the BTS.
Now you have 26 headquarters, 27 coaches and 1800 students. Where do you see beach tennis in the future and what are your aims with the BTS?
The main goal is to keep growing in Italy and abroad where today beach tennis is seen with much more interests than it is in Italy. Our goal is to continue to improve or training methods which is what distinguishs us. The rest hopefully comes by itself.
The boom of beach tennis seems to have passed, especially in Italy, so they say, the number of players is decreasing. There are regions where the sport is not growing. How do you see the situation and what could be done to change the direction?
I think that the real boom of beach tennis is still to come. There have been periods in the past with more interest in the game and I think a sport like beach tennis should have a greater following than it does now. So I believe and I hope that the best days for beach tennis are still to come. But it's true, there has been a decrease. And I think that the reason for this decrease is determined by the fact that we all together, who are attached at the work with beach tennis, did a bad job. After all it's us who work in the beach tennis world and if it doesn't work well, we all need to do some soul-searching. I think that what needs to be done is to make clear that we are professionals. Regardless of the level of the people we have around we have to give everything we have and transmit the passion we have for this sport. Only then, transmitting enthusiasm and passion, we can hope that who lives in this environment will fall in love with beach tennis like we did.
One problem in the world of beach tennis is the absence of huge sponsors who could bring the sport into television. How could that be handled?
This is a really difficult question to answer. Honestly I think that this is like a dog chasing its own tail. If the sport was in TV, big sponsors would come. Maybe the national federations should be the first to invest in the visibility of this sport to create interests. This interests could bring the big sponsors and a lot of passionate people who at that point would be interested in participating.
You often returned to watch the matches of your players even at the WC in Cervia. How much do you miss playing on center court in front of 2000 spectators?
When I come back to Cervia one part of me always has this sense of missing it. But like I said I enjoyed every moment and now it's the right thing to leave the place to the young players.
This year our BEACHCLUB2010® is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The first year we organized the Porsche Beachtennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart in 2011 you won the title with Marco Garavini. What are your memories of this adventure?
My memories are wonderful, we were lucky to come into a beautiful place and you treated us like kings. What you have done is exactly what I'm talking about. In that moment you gave value to us, you gave value to the sport and this is what everyone who lives in this world should do.
In Germany beach tennis is growing slowly. Your advice for us?
Obviously I'm biased, but I really think, the most important thing is to educate the young players. Everybody is talking about the movement in one place and most of the time it's an adult movement. I think that if we want to grow we have to do our best work with the kids, teach beach tennis with professionalism and quality; make them understand that it's a sport certainly will take some time. But when it starts then, it will start stronger and with more solidity. Working with adults will not bring big results.
And how can a good beach tennis player become a top beach tennis player? In Germany almost every player startet with tennis. Is it an advantage or a disadvantage?
I think that it's very difficult to become a top player from a good player. To improve what is already good is never easy. Often the limits are the coaches who are not prepared to make players do the next step in quality. And the players often think that they don't have to practice. That is because beach tennis is not given that much of a value. A tennis player who wants to play beach tennis hardly thinks that he needs coaching lessons for that. But with this reasoning, a good beach tennis player should take training lessons if he wanted to play tennis? I think that, like in everything, the fact that you have knowledge in tennis gives you certain advantages and disadvantages, but at the beginning for sure it is a big help, but it's not decisive for becoming a top player.
You have been to other places outside of Italy, what were your favorite places?
I did not visit a lot of places, other than Stuttgart I have been to New York and Bermuda, two beautiful places with their own characteristics. Let's say that the beach tennis tour started with lots of tournaments all over the world just when I decided to retire ... maybe at this point I should have waited some more years to quit playing (laughs).
Maximilian Hamm, May 2020