Johnston a beach tennis ace
LOUD music blares out, scantily clad bikini babes do their best to pump up the crowd and spectators make heaps of noise with the thunder sticks they’ve been given.
Throw in the sun, sea and sand and you will discover the world of beach tennis, a world where Maryborough’s Nadia Johnston now lives.
It’s a world in which the 32-year-old is making a name for herself as one of the best players in the business.
She is a three-time national champion in her adopted country, the United States.
The former West State School student now calls New York home after moving there in 2003 to pursue her tennis coaching career.
Ranked 243 in the world in women’s doubles and 314 in singles during her “proper” tennis career, Johnston has been playing on the Beach Tennis US professional circuit since 2005 and she’s loving every minute of it.
But what exactly is beach tennis?
Well, it’s played on a regulation beach volleyball court for a start.
Using tennis racquets, two players on each team volley back and forth, hitting a slightly depressurised tennis ball directly over the net without letting it bounce.
One hit a team is all that’s allowed.
A team scores a point each time their opponents hit the ball outside the lines or let it hit the sand.
Johnston, who made the long trip back home to the Heritage City to spend Christmas with her family for the first time in three years, said playing beach tennis was certainly a far cry from playing traditional tennis.
“You certainly cannot imagine what happens on the beach happening at Wimbledon,” she laughed.
“Using tennis racquets is about the only comparison there is to the traditional game.”
But is playing beach tennis harder than the traditional game in which saw Johnston reached a career-high ranking of 15 in singles in Australia once?
“For sure,” she said with an accent more suited to the streets of New York than Maryborough.
“It’s a lot harder on your legs – the sand can be a real killer at times but it’s worth it.
“I love playing the game and the atmosphere is just awesome.”
Johnston, who started playing tennis in the Heritage City when she was eight, went agonisingly close to winning her fourth national title this year – she lost in a tiebreak in the final.
She’ll be back in the hunt for the title again next year but she said it’s going to be different for all the players attempting to win it.
“We won’t be using racquets next year,” she said.
“We’ll be using paddles like they do in other parts of the world, especially Brazil where the game is huge.
“So getting used to one of them is going to be a new challenge,” Johnston, who also coaches at a tennis club, said.
Speaking of Brazil, Johnston said there was plenty of talk of beach tennis being included as a sport when the Olympics are held in Rio in 2016.
Not surprisingly, she said she wouldn’t mind being playing in it if it was.
“That would be fantastic for sure but we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.
“The big question for me is who would I play for?
“I’m Australian but I’m also an American resident – that’s too hard to think about at the moment.”
But does Johnston think the game will catch on in Australia?
“I know that it’s already played in Melbourne,” she said.
“It might grow and become a hit here because it’s so different.
“Just look at cricket and what Twenty20 has done.”
“You certainly cannot imagine what happens on the beach happening at Wimbledon”