Lucy Orozco

Tennis On The Beach?

Traffic before the toll booths on the Rickenbaker Causeway was backed up for almost an hour due to the Sony Ericsson Open. It was interesting to find people with a dislike for certain aspects of tennis at the event. These people developed their own version of the game, beach tennis, because they find it psychotic for people to sit in silence for hours listening solely to the sound of a ricocheting ball.

An area next to the closed court at the Sony Ericsson Open, was set up with sand specifically for the beach tennis game. DJ Sraz provided the tunes for the beach tennis spectators.

“The Ericsson people make me turn the volume down,” said DJ Sarz. “The events at the beach give us more freedom … it’s been a good time so far.”

The tournament usually has girls in bikinis picking up balls, but Marc Altheim, the game’s founder, said the directors of the open told him they did not want that type of image surrounding the event.

“I would rather be in this party atmosphere than in the regular tennis matches,” said Brett Johnson, one of the players competing in the beach tennis tournament with his childhood friend, Mike Edison.

Marc Altheim discovered the game at the Aruba Beach Tennis Festival while vacationing on the island. It is only four years old in the US, but has already caught plenty of attention as a fun alternative to tennis.

“The Sony Ericsson open is considered the fifth major tennis tournament worldwide, so for beach tennis to have a stage here is perfect for the launch,” said Altheim.

This, the game’s second year at the open, marks the beginning of their 2008 national tour. The tours events can be seen on the Tennis Channel, Comcast SportsNet and SportsNet New York. To make the game TV friendly and to allow better plays for women players, Altheim said they lowered the height of the net.

“Women are shorter so a lower net increased the speed of the game,” Altheim said, laughing after noticing that he had to look up to see my face.

The finals were on Sunday, and among the players involved were Association of Tennis Professionals players, Pablo Arraya and Nick Paalzow. -- Lucy Orozco

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