Klagenfurt, Austria, August 4, 2011 – On a day with several upsets during the completion of the first two of three rounds in the men’s 32-team main draw pool play matches Thursday, 11 teams from seven countries emerged unbeaten heading into Friday’s final round of round-robin pool play and the first round of single-elimination bracket play at the $600,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems are back in Austria as the double-gender event marks the 15th consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour with Klagenfurt hosting 14 previous men’s events and 10 previous women’s events. In 2001 Klagenfurt hosted the FIVB Swatch World Championships and has hosted a grand slam every year since 2002.
Leading their respective pools are teams from six countries. The 32 teams in the men’s main draw have been divided into eight pools for four teams each playing three round-robin matches over two days.
One of the most popular events of many ‘favorite’ events on the FIVB Swatch World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a fan-friendly purpose-built 8,000-seat Klagenfurt center court stadium and massive two-story VIP hospitality area alongside the shore of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in southern Austria and is known as one of Austria’s top summer holiday destinations.
On Friday, the men finish pool play with single matches in the morning that will determine the 24 teams that will head into the final single-elimination bracket play phase of the tournament. With the eight pool winners receiving a bye in the first round of elimination, the other 16 teams will play their first elimination round early Friday evening. On Saturday, the winners of Friday’s first round will meet the eight pool play winners in the round of 16 followed by the quarterfinals to determine the men’s final four. On Sunday, the internationally-televised men’s semifinals and medal matches will be held in the Klagenfurt center court.
Leading their pools after the first day of round robin pool play are Italy’s 16th-seeded Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai (Pool J), Brazil’s 18th-seeded Thiago Barbosa/Harley Marques (Pool K), Germany’s third-seeded Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann (Pool L), Latvia’s 20th-seeded Martins Plavins/Janis Smedins (Pool M), Brazil’s fifth-seeded Marcio Araujo/Benjamin Insfran (Pool N), Germany’s 11th-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik (Pool O), Austria’s 10th-seeded Clemens Doppler/Matthias Mellitzer (Pool P) and USA’s 24th-seeded Casey Jennings/Kevin Wong (Pool Q),. All pool leaders by Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik (who are 1-1) were 2-0 Thursday. The pool leaders who won both of their matches without losing a set, each going 4-0 in sets for the day were Italy’s Lupo/Nicolai, Germany’s Brink/Reckermann, Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Benjamin, and USA’s Jennings/Wong.
Also undefeated but second in their respective pools because of tie-break rules are Brazil’s top-seed Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego (Pool J), Brazil’s 14th-seeded Joao Maciel/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Pool L), Netherland’s 29th-seeded Emiel Boersma/Daan Spijkers (Pool M) and Germany’s 12-seeded David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (Pool N).
The last of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt, the women’s semifinals and medal matches will be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as 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.
With the very involved, flag-waving packed house at the Klagenfurt center court stadium, cheered wildly for their teams, win or lose, but one men’s team, Doppler/Mellitzer are leading their pool after two tenacious three-set victories on Thursday that literally made their joyful fans delirious.
First Doppler/Mellitzer defeated Kazakhstan’s 26th-seeded Alexandr Dyachenko/Alexey Sidorenko, 17-21, 21-18 and 15-11 in 57 minutes and then finished their day with a 60-minute match that thrilled the home-country fans, beating Switzerland’s 23rd-seeded Martin Laciga/Jonas Weingart, 21-18, 18-21 and in the seemingly never-ending tiebreaker set, 18-16.
Austria’s two other main draw teams weren’t as successful on Thursday as losing both of their first two pool play matches were ninth-seeded Alexander Horst/Daniel Mullner and 32nd-seeded Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl.
Relishing every moment on the sand stadium in front of nearly 8,000 encouragingly screaming home country fans, Doppler soaked it all in, saying after his final match of the day, “Every year this tournament gets bigger and bigger and today was unbelievable for a Wednesday. For a week we get to be big stars like Austria’s famous downhill skiers and its fun to enjoy that same spotlight for a short time. The crowd definitely helped our emotions run higher today and the result was two big victories and we can enjoy that, even if it is only until our final pool play match tomorrow.
One of the other surprising efforts during Thursday’s pool play was turned in by USA’s 24th-seeded Casey Jennings/Kevin Wong (ninth-seeded in qualifying) who lead their pool after two solid upset wins. They opened the day by stunning eighth-seeded compatriots Jake Gibb/Sean Rosenthal, 21-11, 21-16 in 35 minutes.
In the final Klagenfurt center court stadium match of the day between Jennings/Wong and an Austrian team, the rain began to fall, but it turned into showers of blessing for the Americans as the sunshine returned at the American’s upset Austria’s ninth-seeded Alexander Horst/Daniel Mullner, 21-16, 21-14 in 33 minutes.
Wong, 38, commented after his team’s fourth win of the tournament (including two in qualifying), “We’re getting a lot of great competition between country quota matches, qualifying, pool play matches and elimination rounds, so it’s all good. I was gone for four tournaments and just returned last week in Poland because I missed my family and the athletes I coach so I had to go home to Hawaii and refuel. Casey and I have been able to beat and lose to any team on the tour which shows how amazing the competition is on the world tour. I’m having fun playing the sport I love and that’s really what it’s about for me at this point in my life as far as competing at this level.”
The talented field includes the entire final four finishers from both genders from last year as well as at least one member of the men’s gold medal teams in Klagenfurt 12 of the previous 14 years and seven of the previous women’s gold medal winners. Three of the men’s gold medal teams are playing with new teammates at the extremely popular event and venue.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Klagenfurt were USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (gold), USA’s Matt Fuerbringer/Nick Lucena (Silver), Brazil’s Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego (bronze), Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (fourth place).
Brazil’s Emanuel Rego has won six times with three different partners in Klagenfurt and this year Emanuel is playing with Alison Cerutti. The amazing Emanuel won here the first four years of the tournament, starting in 1997 with Ze Marco de Melo and the next three years (1998, 1999 and 2000) with Jose Loiola. Emanuel’s next two wins were both with Ricardo Santos (2004 and 2007).
While Ze Marco and Loiola are retired, Ricardo is paired for the second straight event this season with Pedro Cunha. Besides last year, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers won in Klagenfurt in 2009 and 2006. Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Benjamin Insfran, are back in their second FIVB Swatch World Tour event as team again, having won the gold medal in Klagenfurt in 2003 in the midst of their first partnership of over nine years. Russia’s Dmitri Barsouk won this event win in 2008 with Igor Kolodinsky but this year he has been teamed with Yury Bogatov.
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to Brazil’s Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima, the bronze was won by Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig and fourth place to Austria’s own Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli. This year all but Cunha/Lima are still playing as last year’s silver medalists were eliminated in a country quota playoff match on Monday.
Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa also won the Klagenfurt gold medal in 2009. The other Klagenfurt gold medal team back this year is USA’s two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh who struck gold here together four times (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007) and Walsh also won here in 2004 with Rachel Wacholder.
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 A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour takes a week off for the 24-team women’s only Olympic test event in London’s Horse Guard’s Parade. Following that event, Europe hosts the final two double-gender open events of 2011 in Aland, Finland from August 15-21 and The Hague, Netherlands from August 23-28. The FIVB will then present the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under 21 years old, August 31-September 4 in Halifax, Canada.
The $600,000 FIVB A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank is the 229th women’s event and 268th 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 Klagenfurt venue this week is 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.beachvolleyball.at.