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Morocco Open | Men
  4/10/2011 - 9/10/2011

Two European teams in Agadir semifinals

Brazil's Rhooney Ferramenta (right) will play his first semifinal on the Tour
Agadir, Morocco, October 8, 2011 – Two European teams reached the final four of the first edition of the FIVB Swatch World Tour Morocco Open on Saturday. Top seeded Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann from Germany will play Americans Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena in the first semifinal on Sunday in Agadir. Dutch veterans Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil are up against Brazil’s Rhooney Ferramenta and Pedro Solberg. None of the final four teams have won a World Tour title this season yet. For Ferramenta it will be his first semifinal on the Tour.

For Brink and Reckermann, who will finish third in the 2011 World Tour ranking, their last Tour gold dates back to 2009. The European champions opened the fifth day of the Morocco Open with a 21-17 19-21 15-12 victory over Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera. It was their first set loss in Agadir. Brink: “We took a lot of risk serving to put the pressure on.” That did not work out well in the second set, but in the tiebreak at 10-10 three scoring float-services by Brink brought them the lead they needed. Reckermann finished it off with a kill block.

The Germans put most of the pressure on Herrera, the 2004 olympic medalist who was sidelined with a knee injury since early July. “That was our tactic, to put pressure on just one person, to tire him out in this heat and it worked”, Brink said. “We are very happy to make it to the final four and look back at a good season.” After a year of injuries in 2010 the Germans did very well this year with the European title, the third place at the World Championships and winning the German nationals. With two silver medals and three bronze this season all they need now is a World Tour title.

Brink and Reckermann are leading the series against Fuerbringer and Lucena by 2-0. The Americans took a longer way to get to the final four. They lost to Nummerdor and Schuil in round four on Saturday, and had to play an extra match against Brazil’s Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran in the loser’s bracket (20-22 21-15 15-12). “We just tried to make the fewest mistakes”, Lucena said about their victory over the fourth seeded Brazilians. “And we tried to serve as much at Marcio as we could, because Benjamin is very crafty. He is very good in avoiding Matt’s block.”

It will be their second final four this season after finishing second in Quebec in July. With two silver medals and one bronze in 23 World Tour events together the Americans dream of their first title. “But it is going to be hard to beat the Germans in the semifinal. They are the most consistent team on the Tour.”

Brazil’s Pedro and Ferramenta took an even longer way to the final four. They lost on Thursday to Brink and Reckermann and played five matches in the loser’s bracket since. Pedro, who won the World Tour in 2008 and has seen it all, was very happy that his good friend and partner can experience his first final four now. Ferramenta’s best finish so far was ninth. “We were a bit emotional”, Pedro admitted after they beat Spain’s Gavira and Herrera 21-18 21-14 in their last match. Earlier that day they had already beaten Casey Jennings and Kevin Wong (21-19 21-16).

The Brazilians, who only played seven Tour-events together, will play Nummerdor and Schuil for the first time. The Dutch proved once again that they are slow starters. They lost the first set 21-16 in their fourth round match against Fuerbringer and Lucena, but made a strong comeback winning the second 22-20 and the tiebreak 15-8. Nummerdor: “I had problems in the first set receiving. They served very short, then the set-up was not high enough and it was really difficult to avoid that huge block of Fuerbringer.”

Nummerdor recovered in the second and when the Americans started changing tactics by targeting Schuil, the olympic indoor champion of 1996 held his ground. Schuil: “It was tough as usual against the Americans and it was incredibly hot. I tried to save as much energy as I could. But what really got me going were the fans in the stands. That made it a lot easier.” After a sluggish season start with no podium places at all the Dutch made it to the final four in the last two events this season. In The Hague they eventually finished second after losing to Pedro Cunha and Ricardo Santos in the final.

The semifinals of the Morocco Open on Sunday are scheduled for 10 and 11 am, the bronze medal will be played at 3 pm, followed by the final at 4 pm. It is the first time the North-African country has hosted an event on the World Tour, after challengers in Casablanca n 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The Morocco Open, held under the honorary presidency of his Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, is the 14th and final men’s tournament on the 2011 World Tour. The women’s Tour ends next month in Phuket, Thailand.   
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