Stare Jablonki, Poland, August 11, 2006 - With less than three men’s events left on the 2006 calendar, the “chase” for the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour points championships is now down to two tandems as the leaders from Brazil advanced to the “final four” of this week’s US$200,000 Mazury Open presented by the Hotel Anders with a pair of wins each here Friday.
The teams of Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos and Marcio Araujo/Fabio Magalhaes are now separated by 140 points after earning spots in Saturday’s semi-finals with their wins Friday. The Brazilians now await the conclusion of the final two Mazury Open elimination rounds to learn their “final four” opponents.
The 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour champions will be determined by calculating the points for a team’s best 10 finishes based on 75 percent of the men’s events staged this season and rounded down. The Mazury Open is the 12th of 14 stops on the 2006 calendar with remaining events scheduled for Brazil (Vitoria, September 26-October 1) and Mexico (Acapulco, October 24-29).
Marcio Araujo and Fabio entered this week’s SWATCH stop 200 points behind Emanuel and Ricardo (6,200-6,000), but erased a fifth-place finish from earlier this season in Portugal to improve their 10-event total to 6,060. Emanuel and Ricardo must win at least one of their “final four” matches Saturday or Sunday to improve their total.
The reigning 2005 SWATCH-FIVB World champions, the top-seeded Marcio Araujo and Fabio advanced to the semi-finals with a 20-22, 21-19 and 15-13 win in 63 minutes over fifth-seeded Wu and Xu of China. It was the Brazilians fourth-straight win over Wu and Xu this season in as many matches as Marcio Araujo and Fabio also defeated the Chinese 23-21, 19-21 and 15-13 last week in Austria.
Marcio Araujo and Fabio, who have won four SWATCH titles this season to match Emanuel and Ricardo’s 2006 gold medal finishes, will be playing in their 19th international “final four” in 26 events since forming their partnership at the start of the 2005 season.
A seventh at last year’s Mazury Open “hurt” Marcio Araujo and Fabio’s chances to claim the SWATCH season points title that Emanuel and Ricardo won by 32 points (5,128 to 5,096) over their Brazilian rivals. Emanuel and Ricardo placed third on the Hotel Anders centre court last season after winning the inaugural Mazury Open gold medal in 2004.
The Athens 2004 Olympic champions, the second-seeded Emanuel and Ricardo gained their 12th-straight SWATCH “final four” berth this season by posting their 10th-consecutive win over third-seeded Pedro Cunha and Franco Neto 21-16 and 21-10 in 35 minutes. Franco earned the 2004 Mazury Open silver medal when he was playing Tande Ramos.
Winners of 18 of 21 matches on the Hotel Anders courts, Emanuel and Ricardo have now advanced to their 44th FIVB “final four” since their first event together at the end of the 2002 season. The Brazilians are the winningest men’s team in history with 22 SWATCH gold medals and $1.63-million in earnings.
With Marcio Araujo and Fabio awaiting the winners of a three-way elimination picture featuring Cunha/Franco, fourth-seeded Mariano Baracetti/Martin Conde of Argentina and eighth-seeded Eugenio Amore/Matteo Varnier of Italy, Emanuel and Ricardo’s possible semi-final oppositions will be either Wu/Xu, sixth-seeded Stefan Kobel/Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland or 23rd-seeded Yannick Salvetti/Guilherm Deulofeu of France.
Deulofeu and Salvetti have now posted their best SWATCH finish together. Kobel, who captured the Athens Olympic bronze medal with Heuscher, is competing in his final FIVB event after announcing his retirement last month. He’ll finish his career at the European championships later this month in the Netherlands before concluding competition next month at the Swiss championships.
Saturday’s six-match schedule ends with the two afternoon semi-final matches. The medal matches will be played Sunday afternoon as the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize. Following the Mazury Open, the men take a six-week break before resuming play at the end of September in Vitoria, Brazil (September 25-October 1).