R. Subraja and S. Shalini, the pair that won its maiden title at the Senior National Beach volleyball championship in Chennai recently, have been playing together for just more than five years now.

They have a good understanding between them - fostered by their long-term partnership - which is the most essential in beach volleyball, they say.

Read: Subraja, Shalini shine for TN

The 17-year old Shalini and the 18-year old Subraja are from the same school in Salem, and they go to the same college in Erode now. They've won titles for their school in the State-level inter-school beach volleyball competitions for five years. They’ve played one inter-district tournament last year.

"The most basic requirement for a pair to play and do well in beach volleyball is good understanding," says Shalini.

They are, firstly, volleyball players.

“Unlike Volleyball, here there are only two players in a team. And those two have to cover the entire court (sic). That’s why good understanding becomes the most essential need,” says Subraja.

The sand, the sun, and the wind are challenges inherent in the sport, says their coach B. Hemamalini.

“The sand impeding the movement, in comparison to volleyball, is a challenge,” she says.

“That tires one a bit easily,” Shalini adds.

The coach says, “The wind may contribute to minor changes in the course the ball takes,” to which Shalini adds, “One may even count the wind as the third player in the team.”

“The ball here is less air-filled, compared to the one in volleyball. The ball material is different as well,” says Subraja.

The players also undergo a slightly different training for the sport, the coach says. She says there’s more focus on ball control and sensible play.

“One has to use their brain a bit more than in volleyball,” is how Subraja puts it.

This is the pair’s first time at the senior National championship and a title-winning one at that. They beat P. Yogeshwari and G. Jenifer, last year’s champion, in an all-Tamil Nadu final.