|It was almost like a "mini" tournament here Wednesday morning when three Brazilian teams featuring former gold medallists on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour played off for the South American countries in the elimination rounds of the men's Qualification Tournament of the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam.
Played at the Schlossplatz, ninth men's international Beach Volleyball event since 1995 in Berlin kicked off Wednesday with three country quota playoff rounds for teams from Brazil, host Germany and the United States. The Brazil matches attracted the most interest among the fans as each with former winners on the international tour competing.
In addition, Todd Rogers and Sean Scott survived possible elimination from the Smart Grand Slam as they kept their Olympic hopes alive out-lasting by out-lasting Canyon Ceman and Matt Fuerbringer 21-17, 16-21 and 15-12 in a 63-minute USA country quota match. The two teams were also scheduled to play in last week's Switzerland event, but airline delays forced their departure in the Olympic-qualifying event in Gstaad.
With the Smart Grand Slam weighted heavier in terms of Olympic qualifying points as compared to other tournaments on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Rogers and Scott trail Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger for the second American berth by 176 points entering this week's event. If Rogers and Scott finish four places ahead of their United States rival, they could move ahead of Holdren and Rogers.
Now back to the Brazilians, who had already placed three teams in the Main Draw. With the team of Luizão Correa/Harley Marques watch, Fabio Magalhães and Paulo Emilio Silva scored a 23-21, 15-21 and 15-8 win in 58 minutes over Pedro Cunha and Pará Ferreira, who won the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour in Puerto Rico earlier this month.
The match featured Pará and Paulo Emilio. Pará ahs nine international tournament wins, including the 1997 FIVB World Champions. Paulo Emilio, who has five career FIVB titles, he teamed with Magalhães to place 13th in Switzerland last week while Pará took the week off to rest his right knee.
Harley, who won the last two Smart Grand Slams with Pará and Franco Net, respectively, and Luizão were looking for a rematch with Magalhães and Paulo Emilio after losing to them last week in the Switzerland country quota round 21-18, 17-21 and 17-15. This week's match also produced the same result with Magalhães and Paulo Emilio winning 12-21, 21-17 and 16-14 in 62 minutes.
In the German country quota matches, the teams of Julius Brink/Kjell Schneider, Hannes Ambelang/Manuel Riek and Thomas Koger/Kay Matysik advanced to the elimination bracket of the Smart Grand Slam, the second of five-straight mixed gender events on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
Following the men's Qualification Tournament, the 32-team Main Draw the Smart Grand Slam Thursday. The eighth stop on the men's 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Main Draw concludes Sunday when the final two teams compete for the $43,000 first-place prize.
Part of the Olympic Beach Volleyball process, the Smart Grand Slam is the second of four-straight events in Europe before the July 11 deadline to determine the 24 men's teams for the 2004 Athens Games in August. The process concludes with events in Norway and Spain.