|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 24, 2004 - The men's Beach Volleyball competition at the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam is starting to look a lot like last week's event in Switzerland as the top four-seeded teams advanced with two wins each here Thursday.
Joining top-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil in duplicating last week's results after the first two rounds of the winner's bracket action were second-seeded Patrick Heuscher/Stefan Kobel of Switzerland, third-seeded Markus Dieckmann/Jonas Reckermann of Germany and fourth-seeded Benjamin Insfran/Marcio Araujo of Brazil.
The two European teams defeated the Brazilians in the semi-finals last Sunday in the Swiss Alps community of Gstaad. The opening "final four" wins by the Swiss and German teams also produced only the second All-European gold medal match ever on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. In the finals, Heuscher and Kobal scored a 21-17 and 27-25 win over Dieckmann and Reckermann.
While the Brazilians are still the favourites to win the Smart Grand Slam title after capturing the gold medal match in four of the last six men's stops in Berlin, all four top-seeded teams must get by matches Friday against teams from Switzerland, France, Australia and Cuba.
"Anyone of those four teams can beat the top seeds," said Kobel after a come-from-behind second match win (18-21, 28-26 and 16-14) over 18th-seeded Kristjan Kais and Rivo Vesik of Estonia. "Right now, we are concerned about playing the Cubans. They are a very athletic team that has the ability to win this tournament. I did not play well in the first set against the Estonians. I have to play a lot better tomorrow."
Heuscher and Kobel play 23rd-seeded Francisco Alvarez and Juan Rosell of Cuba, who posted upset wins over teams from Brazil and the United States Thursday. If the seeds hold, the winner of that match will probably play Dieckmann and Reckerman, but first the Germans must defeat 11th-seeded Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack of Australia.
The top half of the winner's bracket has Emanuel and Ricardo facing eighth-seeded Sascha Heyer and Markus Egger of Switzerland for the second-straight week in the third-round of the winner's bracket while 28th-seeded Stephane Canet and Mathieu Hamel of France challenge Benjamin and Marcio Araujo.
Canet and Hamel posted upset wins Thursday over teams from Switzerland and the United States to gain their best finish on the SWATCH-FIVB Tour in their last 10 starts. With a guaranteed ninth-place finish this week, the French also improved their Olympic qualifying point total by 168 points to 1,074. Canet and Hamel are competing against teams from Austria, Canada, Estonia, Norway, Russia and Puerto Rico for the final five berths for the 2004 Athens Games.