STAVANGER, NORWAY, June 28, 2006 - With pre-determined pool play for this week’s US$580,000 ConocoPhillips Grand Slam, Wednesday’s qualifier for the men’s Main Draw drew a lot more interested from the world’s best Beach Volleyball players.
With six sand courts set up along the Vagen Harbour dock, the Main Draw players watched the action while preparing for Thursday’s opening “money” rounds. The most interested match watchers were the three Norwegian teams in the Main Draw as they will be playing in different pools to open play Thursday.
Brazilians Pedro Cunha and Franco Neto drew the most attention since the top-seeded team in the 34-team Qualification Tournament had to win matches over teams from Italy and Georgia to gain a spot in the Main Draw after winning their country’s playoff for a spot in Wednesday’s preliminary rounds.
The No. 4-ranked team on the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour despite losing country quota matches in Croatia and Italy, Cunha and Franco will enter the Main Draw as the 25th-seeded team and will participate in the same pool with Stefan Kobel/Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland, Iver Horrem/Bard-Inge Pettersen of Norway and Stefan Gunnarsson/Simon Dahl of Sweden.
Cunha and Franco were joined as double-winners Wednesday by second-seeded Francisco Alvarez/Wilfredo Villar of Cuba, fourth-seeded Jochem De Gruijter/Gijs Ronnes of the Netherlands, fifth-seeded Pablo Herrera/Raul Mesa of Spain, ninth-seeded Eric Koreng/Kay Matysik of Germany, 10th-seeded Bjorn Berg/Robert Svensson of Sweden, 11th-seeded Emmanouil Xenakis/Thanassis Michalopoulos of Greece and 14th-seeded Fosco Cicola/Andrea Tomatis of Italy.
The Italians advancement earned them a spot in the same pool with defending ConocoPhillips Grand Slam champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos. The Brazilians have won the last three Vagen Harbour gold medals while Emanuel has been on the top of the ConocoPhillips Grand Slam podium the last five years. Other tandems in the pool are from Spain - Javier Bosma/Inocencio Lario and Juan Garcia Thompson/Alejandro Ortiz.
Emanuel, who also captured the inaugural ConocoPhillips Grand Slam in 1999 with Jose Loiola for six gold medals in seven Stavanger appearances, and Ricardo have an 18-1 mark together on the Vagen Harbour courts with their only setback being to Sweden’s Berg and Dahl in 2003 pool play.
Host Norway will have two other teams in Thursday’s opening Main Draw rounds, including Jorre Kjemperud/Tarjei Skarlund and Vegard Hoidalen/Terje Oevergaard. Kjemperud and Skarlund will be in the same group as Martin Laciga/Markus Egger of Switzerland, Eugenio Amore/Riccardo Fenili of Italy and Alvarez/Villar. Hoidalen and Oevergaard will compete in the same pool as Kristjan Kais/Rivo Vesik of Estonia, Kjell Schneider/David Klemperer of Germany and De Gruijter/Ronnes.
The second of seven-straight double gender events on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the ConocoPhillips Grand Slam “concludes Saturday for the women and Sunday for the men. The final two teams in both genders will be competing for the $42,300 first-place prize.
The ConocoPhillips Grand Slam is the second “major” event on the 2006 calendar as Switzerland hosted the first grand slam last week in Gstaad. After “open” stops in Marseille, Montreal and St. Petersburg the next three weeks, grand slam competition concludes in Paris and Klagenfurt, Austria.