Zagreb, Croatia, May 22, 2008 - Jochem De Gruijter and Gijs Ronnes of the Netherlands pulled off a pair of upsets victories here Thursday during the opening rounds of the US$175,000 VIP Open as the Norwegian tandem of Kjell Goranson and Vegard Hoidalen took advantage of a "second chance" to remain in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour competition for another day.
After winning a pair of Qualification Tournament matches Wednesday over teams from Estonia and Brazil to advance to the Main Draw at the fourth annual VIP Open, De Gruijter and Gijs Ronnes scored two seed-breakthrough victories Thursday to become the third Beach Volleyball tandem from the Netherlands to remain unbeaten in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour competition.
By posting victories over 12th-seeded Clemens Doppler/Peter Gartmayer of Austria, and fifth-seeded Dmitri Barsouk/Igor Kolodinsky of Russia, the 21st-seeded De Gruijter and Gijs Ronnes joined the Dutch pairs of fourth-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Richard Schuil and eighth-seeded Emiel Boersma/Bram Ronnes in the upper-half of the VIP Open winner's bracket with top-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil.
Two teams from the United States are undefeated in the lower half of the winner's bracket along with the tandems of third-seeded Penggen Wu/Linyin Xu of China and sixth-seeded David Klemperer/Eric Koreng of Germany, who are making their 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour debut at the VIP Open in the Croatian capital.
Emanuel and Ricardo, who defeated defending VIP Open champions and 16th-seeded Kristjan Kais and Rivo Vesik of Estonia in their second match Thursday, are the only undefeated Brazilian team in the Lake Jarun event. The 2006 VIP Open gold medal winners, Emanuel and Ricardo will open competition Friday facing Boersma and Bram Ronnes while the other two Dutch teams will play each other in the third round of the winner's bracket. The two victors will then compete later Friday afternoon for a spot in Saturday's first semi-final match.
The Chinese and German pairs will challenge each other in another opening winner's bracket match Friday with the winner playing either seventh-seeded Jake Gibb/Sean Rosenthal or 15th-seeded Matt Fuerbringer/Casey Jennings for a berth in Saturday's second "final four" match on the VIP Open centre court.
Led by Goranson and Hoidalen, 16 other teams remain in the competition with one defeat each in the double-elimination SWATCH FIVB World Tour event. After Friday's play, the VIP Open will have six matches on Saturday, including the semi-finals. The medal matches will be played Sunday with the final two teams competing for the $28,000 first-place prize.
After losing their final Qualification Tournament match Wednesday to Fuerbringer and Jennings 21-16 and 21-19, Goranson and Hoidalen won a "lucky loser" draw over Kentaro Asahi and Katsuhiro Shiratori of Japan for a Main Draw berth after the late withdrawal of Australians Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack due to injury.
The 31st-seeded Norwegians started play Thursday by upsetting second-seeded Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado of Brazil 21-16 and 21-18 before losing again to Fuerbringer and Jennings 21-11 and 25-23. The Brazilians had won three of the first four SWATCH FIVB World Tour stops this season in Australia, China and last week in Italy.
Harley and Salgado, who are challenging Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes for the second Brazilian berth in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, saw their bid to improve their Summer Games' qualifying total end later Thursday after being eliminated from the VIP Open competition by dropping a 21-13 and 21-13 decision to 18th-seeded Pablo Herrera and Raul Mesa of Spain.
Marcio Araujo and Fabio, who have placed 17th in the last two SWATCH FIVB World Tour events in the Czech Republic and Italy, split a pair of matches Thursday after losing to Klemperer and Koreng 21-15 and 22-20 in the second round of the winner's bracket. While Marcio Araujo and Fabio play Doppler and Gartmayer in their first elimination match Friday, Goranson and Hoidalen challenge 17th-seeded Mariano Baracetti and Jose Salema of Argentina.
While the VIP Open is the third of 12-straight SWATCH men's events in Europe before August's Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the women's FIVB circuit is currently competing this week in Osaka, Japan. The two genders compete together next week in Spain at the inaugural Barcelona Open (May 26-June 1).