Gstaad, Switzerland, July 27, 2008 - Brazil's Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado, who during a stretch from the end of last year to the start of this year had won five of seven events, regained their winning form by beating Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil of The Netherlands, 21-16, 22-24, 15-13 in the gold medal match of the US$600,000 1to1 energy Grand Slam. Claiming his 10th title on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, Harley moved into a tie for ninth place on the all-time wins list. Seven of the wins have come with Pedro, tying them for 10th place for team victories.
In order to reach the top spot of the podium, Harley and Pedro had to win three difficult matches against teams seeded second and third in Gstaad as well as against the all-time winningest player in international history. On Saturday they faced a team from China seeded third, and pulled out the match with a 33-31 set victory. Then in Sunday morning's semifinal against Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego, Harley and Pedro rebounded from a loss in the first set to win 17-21, 21-14, 15-12. Following that, the second-seeded Dutch team awaited them in the finals.
"Last week was a very hard week for us not making the Olympics," said Pedro, who was selected as the SWATCH Most Outstanding Player. "That was my biggest dream. Here I didn't see any reason to play. But as the week went on, I thought we still have something to look forward to, winning the Tour title. Now we are playing happy, as before there was a lot of pressure."
Entering the title match, the two teams had been tied with two wins apiece in the head-to-head series. After winning the first set 21-16, the Brazilians appeared headed for a sweep. However the Dutch were not ready to throw in the towel, and held off three Brazilian match points before winning the second set 24-22 and giving the packed stands another set to watch.
In the tiebreaking set, Nummerdor and Schuil jumped out to a 6-4 lead before Harley and Pedro changed the match around with an 8-3 run to make the score 12-9 in favor of the Brazilians. Still, the Dutch were not finished and held off the sixth-seeded team for a couple more match points before finally succumbing 15-13.
"Those two are very nice guys," Pedro said of Nummerdor and Schuil. "It's hard to play against friends. They played very well, but we did our job."
Nummerdor and Schuil also had a tough road to get to the final match, with their last three matches all decided in the third set. After knocking off the top-seeded team in the tournament on Saturday, the Dutch handed fourth-seeded Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinsky of Russia a 24-22, 13-21, 15-9 defeat. Barsouk and Kolodinsky were last year's Silver Medalists in the 2007 World Championships in Gstaad.
Alison and Emanuel's loss against their fellow Brazilians was their first setback in Gstaad, putting them into the Bronze Medal match against fourth-seeded Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinisky of Russia. The Brazilian men bounced back in a hurry from their first loss as a team, defeating the Russians 21-17, 21-16. Emanuel collected his fifth medal in Gstaad, as he won the tournament in 2005 and 2006 to go with three Bronze medals.
"I'm very happy because I saw a great young player coming to our sport," Emanuel said. "There's a new generation coming. Nowadays all the teams are at such a high level. When you have a great big blocker like this it makes it so much easier. I tried to have fun and smile out there."
There's something ironic about the all-time leader in wins (69) and money (US$1,914,485) on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour thanking a 22-year old player for playing with him. But the up-and-comer keeps good company on the volleyball court. He began playing domestically with Bruno Oscar Schmidt, and after one year played with Harley for one season. This year he partnered with Bernardo Romano, and in July this year the duo won three FIVB Challenger events.
Nummerdor and Schuil were attempting to become one of the oldest teams to win an event on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, much like the women the day before. In the women's gold medal finale Saturday, Brazilians Shelda Bede (35 years old) and Ana Paula Connelly (36) became the oldest women's team to win a SWATCH FIVB World Tour title (72 years, six days) by defeating China's Jia Tian and Jie Wang 21-15 and 21-15 in 39 minutes.