Beach Tennis – History, Rules & Equipment

Beach tennis is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. While popular all across, Italy, Brazil and Spain are the countries where tennis on the beach is played the most. This sport provides numerous benefits such as a high-intensity cardio workout with a high anaerobic activity with little to no impact to the knees and joints due to its practice in the sand.

Beach Tennis Overview

Just like traditional tennis, tennis on the beach preserves most of the rules and scoring of tennis (15/30/40). Modifications were made to adapt to movement around the sand court and to the faster pace of the game.

Practically, this sport is a hybrid of beach volleyball and tennis with some influence of badminton. It combines the fast pace of tennis with the social and relaxed nature of volleyball.

A fast-paced sport easy to learn

beach tennis
Beach Tennis

The reason why the sport is gaining popularity so quickly is that is it both very fun to play but also very easy to learn when compared to most racket sports.

Even someone trying for the first time could get some rackets and balls, get to the beach and get a rally by the end of the day. Of course, becoming an excellent player or a pro who knows all the rules will take some practice, but for fun playing, one could immediately learn.

If someone had been playing tennis, table tennis or badminton in the past, they will know how to play beach tennis from the get-go. But don’t mistake this sport as an easy sport, it does require skill and finesse.

Such characteristics enable this sport to appeal to a broader audience (both athletes and non-athletes). This means that the sport is played recreationally and competitively.

Like tennis, beach tennis players use a paddle or a racquet, and a tennis ball. However, the difference is that this sport is played on a volleyball-size court on the beach terrain. Such terrain dictates slightly different gameplay when compared to tennis. This is why some of the rules had to be adjusted and suited to match beach tennis only. So, let’s review the rules below.

Beach Tennis Equipment

beach tennis
Beach tennis net

Beach Tennis Balls

The accepted balls for the game are 6.4 cm in diameter or 2.5 inches and weigh 38 – 40 grams. 

These are stage 2 tennis balls which are half orange/half yellow. In the early beginnings, sometime until 2010, the low compression green balls or stage 1 balls were used, however due to the nature of the terrain, the softer, slightly slower stage 2 balls are now preferred. 

Such balls increase the rally length to make the game more enjoyable or less hazardous.

Last updated on 24/09/2021 11:03

Beach Tennis Rackets or Paddles

Both rackets or paddles are both used for tennis on the beach as long as the right dimensions are followed. Namely, the maximum length should not exceed 55 cm or 21.65 inches while the width should not exceed 30 cm or 11.81 inches.

Players can use any size of rackets or paddles within this range. 

Last updated on 24/09/2021 11:03

Gameplay Elements

The main furnishing of beach tennis consists of stakes, nets, and lines. 

In order to have a terrain properly set for a match, you will need to raise the net to 1.7 meters or 67 inches from the ground. The perimeter lines should be 2 inches wide and should have a contrasting colour with the surface of play.

Last updated on 24/09/2021 11:03

Beach Tennis Rules

When you want to learn a certain game, it’s important to know the rules well in order to master it. Here are all the details regarding the basic beach tennis rules and other aspects of the game.

Server and Receiver

As in regular tennis, the server and the returnee should be opposite to each other. The right to serve first is decided at the start of the match through a toss. The player who wins the toss may choose to either be the first to serve or receive.

The player who wins the toss will also choose which side of the court to start playing from. The serving player must stand outside the boundary line, and they have one opportunity to serve. Apart from this, there is no service let or second serve in beach tennis.

Changing Sides

beach tennis
Young woman playing beach tennis

The rule regarding players changing sides remains the same as in tennis. Both players are switching sides after the end of odd games – 1, 3, 5 and so forth.

Scoring System

The scoring system uses a no advantage system, after deuce. A team or player wins a point when the ball touches the ground within the marked boundaries of the court, or if the opponent commits a fault like hitting the ball on the net.

With that said, beach tennis uses several scoring formats: best of 5 sets, best of 3 sets, 1 set. If both players have accumulated three points each (15, 30, 40), then one of the players must score an additional point to win the game.

To win a set, a player must score 7 or 9 games with a lead margin of at least two games. When the players have scored 6 or 8 games, then a tie-break will be played.

Playing Area

The standard court size for double matches is 16 meters or 52.50 feet long and 8 Teresa or 26.24 feet wide. Though rare, tennis on the beach can be played by singles.

For single matches, the length of the playing area is the same as for the doubles while the width is slightly smaller or 4.5 meters or 14.91 ft. wide.

Gameplay Rules

First and foremost, a rule taken from volleyball, the ball mustn’t touch the ground.

Because of this rule, beach tennis is a very intense, quick, and exciting game that starts with the serve and ends with the ball falling on the ground. 

Such rule forces players to dive into difficult plays, similar to volleyball. As with tennis, the objective is to return the ball with only one hit so that it reaches the opposing side of the net. Because of the nature of the game, the players need to use the stage 2 or depressurised tennis ball to make for longer rallies as it will travel more slowly through the air than a regulation tennis ball.

Beach Tennis Teams

beach tennis racket
Beach tennis game

While it can be used by two opposing players only, beach tennis is mostly played by teams of two players on each side. The terrain used is a regulation beach volleyball court with a net.

Origins of Beach Tennis

Now that you know the rules, the needed equipment and everything else it takes to master beach tennis, let’s dive a bit into its origins for a chance to get to know the sport better.

Tennis on the beach first appeared in Italy in the early 1970s when tennis players on vacation in Lido degli Estensi  in Ferrara, decided to try out tennis with tennis rackets using the existing volleyball nets already installed. 

This gained a lot of traction both among players and the audience which led to the first beach tennis tournament in 1976. It was played by the same rules that we know today but instead of Italy, the match was played in Torredembarra, Spain.

Two years later, in 1978 the first championship was played in the same Spanish city where since then is traditionally played every year on the same beach.

Nowadays, it is estimated that there are more than 1,600 beach tennis nets along the coast of Italy with the addition of the constantly growing number of inland and indoor courts.

But this should not come as a surprise, since in Italy alone there are more than 250,000 Italian beach tennis players. This has undoubtedly made the sport super popular and trendy. This is a tremendous growth when we consider the fact that this sport started spreading around the world in the early 2000s.

On that note, the infrastructure for tournaments has taken on incredible proportions too.

The Spread of Beach Tennis

Beach tennis
Beach tennis jump

Today, there are more than 53 countries where beach tennis is taken as an official sport and professional players and trained to compete. 

In 2008 beach tennis arrived in Brazil too, on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro more precisely. Since then, the sport dominates in about one third of all beach volleyball courts along the coast. It is estimated there are more than 50,000 beach tennis players in Brazil.

Bringing beach tennis to Rio was a brilliant tactic since many people go on vacation there and have a chance to experience the sport. This is how numerous fan took the sport back to their inland home towns which is how beach tennis spread to 

As Brazilians from all over the country came to Rio on vacation they fell in love with the sport and have taken it back the far corners of the country away from the coast. Today, most of the tennis clubs around the country have converted at least one traditional tennis court into a few beach tennis courts.

Such popularity contributed to the beach tennis to be organised and played in indoor courts too where nets and sand are placed to match the same beach environment in which it is originally played. 

ITF Recognition

In 2010 beach tennis was recognised as an official sport not only a variant of tennis by the International Tennis Federation, or ITF. Since then, the ITF manages the most well-known and most reputable international ranking for beach tennis. 

The organization is also allocating resources to further develop and promote the sport. Various marketing methods have been used such as the setting up of exposition sand courts at Pro Tour tournaments in the stadium areas of major tournaments such as Tokyo ATP 500 (Rakuten Japan Open), Roland Garros, Australian Open in Melbourne and the US Open (Arthur Ashe Stadium NY). 

This has enabled top tennis players in the world like Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Andy Murray, the Bryan Brothers, Rafael Nadal and Gustavo Kuerten to try tennis on the beach. News flash, they all loved it and I am not surprised!

The ITF also supports Beach Tennis by sanctioning tournaments. In 2015 89 official sanctioned beach tennis tournaments were held in locations all around the world. These sanctioned tournaments bring together players from all corners of the earth looking to earn points for their world ranking. In addition to the sanctioned tournaments, thousands of non-associated tournaments are held all around the world each year, and this number continues to grow. 

Even though tennis on the beach is spreading quickly in the world and is becoming more and more popular in many countries, Italy remains the Mecca of the sport.

Brazil follows closely though, with a very fast growing number of players including top 10 ranked players in both men and women’s divisions.

Beach Tennis in the USA

beach tennis fall
Beach tennis fall

Beach tennis was formalized in the United States in 2005 in New York City by Marc Altheim. He discovered tennis on the beach on a trip to Aruba in 2003. The sport had been played there since 2000, having been introduced by a Dutchman.

As of 2007, tennis on the beach had made progress toward acceptance as a mainstream sport with an official standards organization known as Beach Tennis USA (BT USA). 

The Miami BT USA Open featured 40 teams, including several formerly highly ranked pro tennis players, including Jay Berger and Pablo Arraya. In 2007, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf played the sport too.

Beach Tennis Paddle & Beach Tennis USA

There are two main types of beach tennis. The first being played with a paddle racquet while the second is a tennis on the beach USA version. 

The second one is isn’t played with a paddle but a racket and a typical tennis ball, while the beach tennis paddle is played with a paddle and the stage 2 depressurised ball.

The beach tennis with a solid paddle is sometimes referred to as the beach paddle ball, and it is mainly played in other countries.

Once tired of playing it, you can always chill and relax on the water while paddle boarding.

Beach Tennis Rules Summary

Regulations

  • The game is played as singles or doubles
  • Regulation net height is 5 ft. 6 3/4 inch. (1.7 meters)
  • Width of an official court is 26 1/4 ft. (8 meters)
  • Length of an official court is 52 1/2 ft. (16 meters)
  • Paddles must be minimum of 18 1/2 inches in length and no longer than 20 inches

Rules

  • The rules of beach tennis are similar to those of regular tennis:
  • Scoring is 15-30-40 with no advantage; at 40-40 (deuce) next point wins
  • Doubles, men serve underhand
  • Lets are in play
  • one serve is allowed per point
  • The ball can NOT hit the sand. If it does, the opposing team receives a point
  • If the ball strikes the line in any way the shot is good
  • No part of a player’s body or his/her equipment may touch the net or cross the plane of the net (over or under). If it does, that player’s team will lose the point being played
  • The player serving must stay behind the base line while serving. If any part of a player’s body touches the base line in his/her service motion before hitting the ball, it is considered a foot fault and the serving team will lose the point
  • Only one hit is allowed to get the ball over the net; in doubles, you may not pass the ball to your partner.

Beach Tennis FAQ

Beach tennis
Beach tennis racket

How much does beach tennis differ from regular tennis?

Besides the aerial and playing area aspects, the scoring system for beach tennis is just the same as tennis. Also, tennis on the beach is played with a higher net – 67 inches (1.7 meters).

Since it is not a no-fault system, players have only one-serve. Because of the straightforward system in point scoring (no advantage points), it is always easy to approximate how long the game will last.

Is the equipment used in beach tennis similar to tennis?

The equipment used for playing tennis on the beach is similar to that of tennis however there are some key differences due to the terrain. 

The paddle is made of carbon, graphite, and fibreglass with no strings. Just like tennis, rackets for tennis on the beach can vary in weight and length. Beach tennis balls are low compression tennis balls.

Is Beach Tennis played across the globe? 

Yes, beach tennis is played in many northern and southern hemisphere countries. Today, beach tennis is a competitive sport in many European countries and other parts of the world, but it is more popular in Italy, Spain, and Brazil.

In what countries is Beach Tennis played?

Beach Tennis is mainly played in Italy, Brazil, France, and Russia.

Other countries where this sport is played are Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, the UK, Slovenia, Cyprus, Croatia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Australia, Thailand, USA, and some Latin America countries, among the 53 others.

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Last updated on 24/09/2021 11:03

I hope you enjoyed learning more about beach tennis as a dynamic and fun sport anyone can play. Are you ready to try it this summer? Let me know in the comments what your preferred summer sport is and why. I’d love to know your opinion. Also, don’t forget to visit my Facebook and Instagram account for more cool tips and recommendations on paddle boards and other sports. 

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)