30-year-old Paolo Nicolai, a silver medalist at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is changing the beach game as we know it. One of the most dangerous servers in the sport, about three months ago he broke the world record for the fastest serve ever registered, hitting the ball at impressive 119 km/h (74 mp/h) during the World Tour Gstaad Major.
Much like in the indoor game, serving is largely becoming the key component to success in the beach. Nicolai, with an arm cannon at his disposal, has never won the World Tour’s best server award, with Brazilian Evandro Gonçalvez being selected for the accolade in the last four straight seasons. Nicolai, who already has the record, wants to use this as motivation to get even better (FIVB.com):
“At this level, if you don’t create trouble for your opponents when they are siding out, it gets really hard to score points. When I’m preparing to serve, I try to stay as relaxed as possible and focused on the toss, which is probably the most important step. Once the ball is at the right spot, all I want is to hit it hard and at the highest point I can, and if I do that, the rest will take care of itself.
Evandro has deserved to win these awards in the last years, his ability to put pressure on the opponents is impressive. He’s the best server in the world right now. This is not something I’m pursuing, my focus is on winning games and medals, but if at some point I get to a place where people consider me the best server in the world that would be awesome.
One thing I’m trying to work on is balance. When you go hard on you serving, it can either go well and you score a lot of points or go bad and you make a lot of mistakes. I’m working on a jumping floater to find this balance and also give some more variation to my serving game.”