Aland, Finland, August 18, 2011 – Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai recorded the first major upset of the men’s competition at the $380,000 Paf Open in Aland when they beat fourth seeds Ricardo Santos and Pedro Cunha in straight sets. The Italians were pushed all the way by the Brazilians, but showed nerves of steel to win 23-21, 23-21. Earlier in the day Lupo and Nicolai came back from an opening set loss to beat Switzerland’s Sasha Heyer and Sebastien Chevallier 19-21, 21-16, 15-11.
“We are just feeling very, very happy,” Lupo said. “We are delighted to have beaten Cunha and Ricardo, who are one of the best teams in the world. We are still very, very young and so it was difficult to win. We had to start well and continue in that vein. We are taking it game by game, but the further we go the better. Even so, it is definitely the best win of our career.”
It was a big setback for Ricardo and Cunha, who won the most recent FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour event in Klagenfurt. The Paf Open is only their third tournament as a pair after they came together for the Mazurly Orlen Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki. However, they will have another chance to reach the final through the double elimination draw that affords defeated teams a second match after losing their first. Ricardo and Cunha will now play Latvia’s Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins.
Fellow Brazilians and No. 2 seeds Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti got their campaign off to a winning start with two wins from two. First they beat Turkish qualifiers Volkan Gogtepe and Selcuk Sekerci 21-15, 21-18, before they defeated German pair Sebastian Dollinger and Stefan Windschief 21-17, 21-7.
“It went well, though it was windy on the outside courts so we had to use our experience when we were playing there,” Emanuel said. “I’m very satisfied because this is a very important tournament.”
No. 1 seeds Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser also grabbed two wins from two as they began the defence of the gold they won in 2010. Despite having the crowd against them for their opening match with Sweden’s Stefan Gunnarsson and Hannes Brinkborg, the United States pair prevailed 21-17, 21-17. In their second match they faced another Scandinavian team in Norway’s Martin Spinnangr and Tarjei Skarlund, but were ruthless in their performance with a 21-16, 21-16 victory.
“It went really well,” Rogers said. “The Norwegians served really tough, but we won. We won both games today and that is great.”
Gunnarsson and Brinkborg meanwhile recovered from the loss to Rogers and Dalhausser to record a win that takes them forward to the action on August 19. The Swedish pair were pushed all the way, but stayed composed to beat Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Matthias Mellitzer 21-19, 18-21, 15-13 and delight the centre court crowd.
“It felt amazing,” Brinkborg said. “After the earlier game today we didn’t think we had performed well, so we had to win this game. The game went really well. They seemed to run away with the points, but we always felt we had it under control and we came back and won.” Gunnarsson and Brinkborg will now play another U.S. team, Casey Patterson and Brad Keenan. The winner stays in the competition.
The men’s main draw at the Paf Open began on August 18. The final is on Sunday, August 21. It is the 12th stage of the 14-tournament FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, which concludes at the Morocco Open in Agadir from October 4 to 9.