Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 31, 2011 – With the sun breaking through on a pleasant summer Sunday afternoon in Poland, USA’s Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers started slow then became invincible as they captured their fourth gold medal of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, winning the vastly popular $600,000 Mazury Orlen Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems were in Poland this week as the double-gender event marked the eighth consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour with Stare Jablonki hosting seven previous men’s events and three previous women’s events. This is also the second year it has been a grand slam instead of an open event. Overall, this is the 10th men’s event held in Poland (Myslowice hosted in 2009, 2010), and eighth women’s event held in Poland (Myslowice hosted in 2008 and this year and Warsaw in 2006, 2007).
In the gold medal finale, late Saturday afternoon in front of over 6,000 celebratory fans on the Hotel Anders center court, USA’s second-seeded Dalhausser/Rogers overcame the challenge of the home-country fans and Poland’s fourth-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel to earn a three-set victory in 53 minutes, 21-15, 15-21 and 15-13 in the tiebreaker.
With their victory, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers increased their 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour record to 51-12 while Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel slipped to 36-15. Able to successfully defend the gold medal they won in Stare Jablonki last year after starting 0-2 in pool play, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers won six straight to earn their 21st FIVB career gold medal as a team while making the final four for the 36th time in the 47 events they have played together and garnered their 34th FIVB medal as a team.
With the win USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers improved their career FIVB record against Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel to 5-0, although this was the first win that took three sets to accomplish. The victory was also the fifth time as a team when that USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers won the gold medal match against a team from the host country.
The Hotel Anders resort and spa in the Mazury region of northeast Poland has hosted this tournament since the event began in 2004. Stare Jablonki is a village of 750 permanent residents that swells to over 30,000 for the week of this event and the Mazury region is known throughout Europe for having more than 1,000 lakes. The smallest population area the FIVB Swatch World Tour visits every year, the Hotel Anders event has a history of drawing among the largest of all crowds annually on the tour.
The sixth of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour schedule, the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam saw the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. Silver medalists will split $29,500 while bronze medal winners will divide $23,000 and the fourth place finishing teams will each receive $18,400.
A major crowd favorite all week as they won six straight matches before eventually succumbing in the gold medal match, Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel have played 34 FIVB Swatch World Tour events together and in Stare Jablonki they became the first team from their country to finish in the final four and to earn a medal in this event. This was their seventh career final four placement, they’re third medal overall and second silver medal. They now have earned four final four placements in the last six FIVB Swatch World Tour events and the other two were fifth place finishes in this stretch.
In the gold medal match, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers came out strong, erupting for a 7-1 lead which didn’t silence the roaring Polish crowd supporting their home-country team one bit. The match was never tied as Dalhausser scored three times on blocks along with two ace serves and Rogers scored several times on kills and chop shots.
Things changed in the second set as Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel fed off the sizzling energy of the vocal sold out crowd, breaking open a 5-5 tie to lead by 18-12 and then closing it with a Prudel kill over Dalhausser.
The tiebreaker set was tied three times, the last at 6-6 as Dalhausser’s defense netted three more blocks, several kills and Rogers kept Filalek/Prudel running with successful chop shots. USA built a lead of 11-7 and Poland did close to 12-13, but USA scored two of the final three points on a Rogers cross court kill and Dalhausser ending it with a cross court kill of his own.
“We had a very slow start in this tournament, but we turned it around and finished really strong, beating the new world champions and a red-hot Polish team on their home court,” said Dalhausser following the match. “We were comfortable with how things were going, but they made some great plays in the second set and we couldn’t close them out. Todd and I play a lot of three set matches so we don’t panic easily and we actually enjoy when a large, vocal crowd like this is rooting for their home team. We feel the energy, but we don’t let it get to us. It actually helps us to focus even more.”
Echoing Dalhausser’s comments, Rogers said, “We really turned this one around and it took both of us to do it. Those first two losses were really bad on our part but the last six wins we played as good as we have since Phil’s ankle injury. The Polish team played very good like Phil said and I think it’s great to see another country besides the ‘regulars’ have some impact on the final four of a FIVB Swatch World Tour event.”
In the bronze medal match Brazil’s top-seeded Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego overcame a relatively slow start and defeated Germany’s 13th-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik in two sets, 23-21, 21-15 in 39 minutes.
For the relatively new team of Alison/Emanuel, this was just their 21st tournament as a team, their 15th final four with 14 medals won and their fifth bronze medal. For the legendary Emanuel, 38, this was his 155th career FIVB Swatch World Tour event and his 38th career FIVB bronze medal. For his young, but blossoming career, Alison, 25, this was his 25 FIVB Swatch World Tour final four with 23 medals and he has eight FIVB career bronze medals with the one he earned today with Emanuel.
Including the bronze medal match, Brazil’s Alison/Emanuel, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Champions has a 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour record of 52-6, and Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik duo is 24-23.
After being behind much of the first set of the bronze medal match, Alison/Emanuel rallied to tie the score at 20-20 and Erdmann/Matysik missed on three set point attempts and then the Brazilian’s kept the edge, closing it out with the second Emanuel ace in the final points and a cross court kill by Alison.
In the second set, Alison/Emanuel jumped out fast, leading 5-1 and 9-3, and after short rallies by the Erdmann/Matysik, eventually putting the set and match away, playing nearly flawless to overpower Erdmann/Matysik and move their FIVB career record against the Germans to 5-2.
In Sunday semifinals that once again rocked the full house at the Hotel Anders center court stadium, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers came out strong, hung tough, then pulled away to defeat Brazil’s Alison/Emanuel, 21-15, 18-21 and 15-12 in 48 minutes and Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel danced to the music of the over the top enthusiasm of their Polish fans to defeat Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik for the second time in this tournament, 22-20, 21-12 in 39 minutes.
In the first semifinal, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers returned to the Hotel Anders center court for the first time losing two pool play matches there on Thursday which seriously challenged them to advance to the single-elimination bracket play in the tournament. In the first set between the top two-seeds in the tournament, Brazil jumped to a 4-1 lead and there were three early ties as Dalhausser/Rogers clawed back into the match with good serving and get work at the Swatch net by Dalhausser, leading 12-9 at the technical time out and then pulling away until Dalhausser ended it with his second ace serve down the middle of the court.
In the second set, things got much closer, even though Dalhausser/Rogers started off 3-0, there with 12 ties in the set, the last one at 18-18 when Brazill scored the last three points off a Dalhausser serve into the net, a Rogers cross court kill that went wide and Alison ended with a kill over the top of Rogers.
In the tiebreaker third set, USA jumped off to a 4-0 lead on two consecutive blocks by Dalhausser and Emanuel chop that went wide trying to overcompensate for Dalhausser’s presence and an Alison hitting error after a great serve by Rogers. As Dalhausser dominated the net with seven blocks, USA kept a lead of at least two points the rest of the way ending the match with an Emanuel serve that went long and an Alison kill that was wide.
In the dynamic rivalry between the two teams, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers now have an 8-3 series edge over Brazil’s Alison/Emanuel, playing in just their 21st FIVB Swatch World Tour event as a team. Before Sunday’s semifinal in Stare Jablonki, In their three previous meetings this year were in gold medal matches with the American’s winning the season-opener in Brazil, and the Brazilians taking the next two in Prague, Czech Republic and in Gstaad, Switzerland three weeks ago.
With the packed house roaring “Polska, Polska” at every hit in the second semifinal, Poland’s home country favorites Fijalek/Prudel made the most of the first ever final four appearance by a Polish team in the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam, defeated Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik in straight sets.
Down early in the first set, Fijalek/Prudel came back to take the lead then broke a 20-20 tie by scoring the final two points to win. In the second set, with their home-country crowd on their feet for nearly the entire set, Fijalek/Prudel worked phenomenally at the net and on serves to overpower Erdmann/Maytsik to the delight of the nearly delirious fans at the sold-out Hotel Anders center court stadium.
Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel, who have made the final four the fourth time in the last six world tour stops, now have a 3-0 FIVB career record against Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik, who have made their first final four on the world tour as a team, including a two-set pool play win for Poland earlier this week in Stare Jablonki.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Stare Jablonki were USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (gold), Germany’s Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann (Silver), Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (Bronze) and Germany’s David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (fourth place).
In this year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold for the third straight year, with silver going to USA’s Jennifer Kessy/April Ross, bronze to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes and fourth place to going to China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang.
The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
After the $600,000 Mazury Orlen Grand Slam, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour has its last of six 2011 Grand Slam double-gender events Monday through Sunday in Klagenfurt, Austria (A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank Klagenfurt 2011). Each grand slam has $600,000 purses and the other major event this year, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Championships in Rome had a $1 million total purse.
The $600,000 Mazury Orlen Grand Slam was the 228th women’s event and 267th men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain. While this is the 25th year that the FIVB has sanctioned international pro beach volley events, it is the 23rd year of the men’s and 20th year of the women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour.
Also on-site this week at the Hotel Anders venue was a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of select matches, but also the weekly FIVB Swatch World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, please visit www.fivb.org or visit the event website at www.worldtour.pl.