|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 26, 2004 - "Luck" has been with the Lacigas this weekend as a forfeit by one of their home country rivals led the Swiss brothers to a spot in the "final four" of the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam here Saturday.
After winning five-straight elimination bracket match the past two days, the Lacigas (Martin and Paul) will play top-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil in Sunday's first semi-final match. Third-seeded Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann of Germany face 14th-seeded Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde of Argentina in the second semi-final match.
With Swiss countrymen Patrick Heuscher withdrawing from the competition Friday after winning a match over a Cuban team due to partner Stefan Kobel's leg injury, Saturday's final match was not held to give the fifth-seeded Lacigas a pass on playing their sixth elimination bracket match in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event.
The Lacigas advanced to their first "final four" this season by out-lasting ninth-seeded Andreas Scheuerpflug and Christoph Dieckmann 15-21, 21-17 and 15-13 in 51 minutes. Saturday's last "final four" qualifiers were Baracetti and Conde, who ousted fourth-seeded Benjamin Insfran and Marcio Araujo of Brazil 26-24, 19-21 and 18-16 in 63 minutes.
"We have been pretty lucky all week," said Martin Laciga after his final match Saturday. "After losing our first game Thursday, we had time to reflect about the defeat. In a regular event, we would have been back on the sand playing two more matches in the same day. Our luck continued with wins over the Austrians and Norwegians Thursday."
Sunday's semi-final match will also be the Lacigas first in 12 events. The Swiss brother's last appeared in a "final four" in Marseille where they lost the gold medal match to Emanuel and Ricardo last July 20. Competing in their 113th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event together, the Lacigas have now reached their 33rd "final four" with six gold medal finishes.
Baracetti and Conde, who reached their third "final four" this season with a bronze medal in Brazil and a silver medal in Puerto Rico, followed the same route to the semi-finals as the Lacigas, except the Argentineans had to play the sixth elimination bracket game.
Competing in 21st SWATCH-FIVB World Tour "final four" in 42 international starts together, Baracetti and Conde have four "open" FIVB gold medals. Their last gold medal finish was more than two years ago in Switzerland.
The silver medallists in the 2003 Smart Grand Slam, Baracetti and Conde were defeated in their opening match against a United States team before eliminating tandems from Germany, Spain, the United States, Cuba, Australia and Brazil.
"We are tired," said Baracetti after his team's third match Saturday. "It is good to be back in the semi-finals in Berlin. Our last two matches against the Aussies and the Brazilians were close and we had rally at the end of both deciding sets to win."