|SALVADOR, BRAZIL, March 21, 2004 - For the third-straight time on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Brazilians Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos have captured the gold medal as the top-seeded team defeated Stefan Kobel and Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland in the finals of the US$180,000 Brazilian Open.
Emanuel and Ricardo, who captured the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour's final two events in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro, scored a 21-19 and 21-18 win over the sixth-seeded Kobel and Heuscher to claim the $27,000 first-place prize. For their silver medal finish, the Swiss split $18,000 for their best finish-ever in a FIVB "open" event.
"We played well, but the Brazilians were even better," said Heuscher after the match. "It is great to play before this crowd. Their service game was the difference at the end of the second set while they both had some key blocks."
Played before a jam-packed centre court crowd of more than 4,000 in front of the at the Catussaba Resort Hotel, Emanuel and Ricardo never trailed in the 22-minute first set as they had leads of 5-2, 7-3, 13-8 and 15-9 before the Swiss used a 5-1 run to make it 20-19.
In the 21-minute second set, the Swiss tandem raced to a 6-1 lead by scoring four points on their serve. Emanuel and Ricardo caught Kobel and Heuscher at 10-10 as the match was tied seven more times. After being tied at 18, the Brazilians scored the final three points, including the final score on an Emanuel serve that fell in front of the diving Swiss.
"You should never lose a set when you jump to a quick lead like we did in the second game," said Heuscher, who was the SWATCH fastest serve winner at 90.1 kph. "Despite losing, we are really satisfied with our play this week. This is my far our best tournament ever. We beat some quality teams and earned this medal."
In defeating the Swiss team for the first-time in three matches, Sunday's win also marked the six SWATCH-FIVB World Tour title for the Emanuel/Ricardo partnership in 13 international starts. The Rio win also claimed the FIVB World Championship for the Brazilians who formed their partnership at the end of the 2002 season.
"These tournaments are getting tougher and tougher," said Emanuel. "The Swiss never gave up despite trailing throughout. They jumped on us early in the second set and we found ourselves fortunate to get back to even at the mid-way point. In the end, we served well to put points on the board."
SWATCH FASTEST SERVE - Patrick Heuscher, Switzerland, 90.1 kph in first set Sunday