Brazil's Alison Cerutti takes the applause of the Campinas crowd after a tension-filled win
Campinas, Brazil, May 31, 2013 - Brazil's Olympic silver medallists Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego were forced to dig deep and use all their experience to find a way into the tournament's final four as the sun shone gloriously on day three of the inaugural FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup Final.
A surprise 2-1 (21-16, 21-23, 15-17) defeat against Switzerland's Sebastian Chevallier and Philip Gabathuler in their first pool match of the day meant that anything other than victory in Brazil's final pool match against Latvia's Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins equalled an exit from tournament and no semi-final spot.
The re-match of the 2012 Olympic Games semi-final was high tension from the start, with the Campinas crowd full of expectation. In London it was Alison-Emanuel who were victorious, but Plavins-Smedins produced a dominant first set to win 21-13 and cast doubt on the outcome.
The Brazilians finished the second set stronger to level the score at 1-1 and then flew into a 7-1 lead in the deciding set, but Plavins-Smedins forced their way back into it and Alison-Emanuel just managed to close it out, winning the set 16-14. "We didn't play our best," said Alison after the match. "But the characteristic of big teams is knowing how to get out of difficult situations."
While Brazil's win qualified both teams for the final four, Latvia still topped pool A on superior points ratio, but both had to wait for the end of the final pool B match between top seeds Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson of the USA and Germany's unbeaten Jonathan Erdmann and Kay Matysik on court two to find out who they would face in the semi-finals.
Erdmann-Matysik lost the first set 21-17, but won the next by the same score and then took the deciding set 20-18 to maintain the only unbeaten pool record in the men's draw. The win meant a match-up with Brazil's Alison-Emanuel in the final four, a prospect that Matysik savoured.
"It doesn't matter who comes to the semi," he said. "It's always a tough match and playing Brazil here in the semi? Let's see how it works. They lost a [pool] match, we didn't. We're looking forward to it, we didn't play yet on centre court, and every European team playing Brazil or USA, it's always a big motivation to win."
Despite defeat, a relieved United States pair still qualified for the final four as pool runners-up thanks to the Canadian challenge of Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk falling at the final attempt. Despite seeing off countless match points in a marathon second set, Saxton-Schalk couldn't back up the earlier pool win against their USA training partners and slipped to a 2-0 (21-18, 33-31) defeat against Norway's Geir Eithun and Iver Andreas Horrem.
Gibb-Patterson face Lativa's Plavins-Smedins in the first semi-final tomorrow, starting at 11:30 (local time), while another big home crowd will see Brazil's Alison-Emanuel against Erdmann-Matysik in the second, scheduled for 12:30.
In all the drama of the final round of pool matches in the men's draw, the women's final four almost played a support act on day three, but saw home favourites Maria Antonelli and Talita Da Rocha Antunes secure a gold-medal match against Olympic silver medallists April Ross and Jennifer Kessy from USA.
Antonelli-Talita beat Australia's Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy 2-0 (21-15, 21-19) thanks to some strong support from the stands. "It's realy great to play in Brazil, with the support of the fans," said Talita afterwards. "The Campinas public are our third player."
In her summary, Australia's Bawden put the win down a strong serving display from Antonelli. "There was a lot of heat on the serves today. I think that was probably the best service game I've experienced playing against Maria, she was strong today."
Ross-Kessy were forced to win their semi-final against Germany's Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler from a set down, but eventually closed out the match 2-1 (21-23, 21-17, 16-14) despite trailing by a couple of points going into the closing stages of the deciding set.
The women's medal matches on centre court tomorrow will start with Holtwick-Semmler against Bawden-Clancy for bronze at 09:30, and then Ross-Kessy against Antonelli-Talita for gold scheduled for 10:30.