Brasília, Brazil, April 21, 2012—Staying focused in the midst of hundreds of thousands of people enjoying a massive Brazilian holiday Saturday, USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers and USA’s Matt Fuerbringer/Nick Lucena survived the sun, the heat and the revelry to meet in Sunday’s internationally televised all-American men’s gold medal match at the US$380,000 Brasília Open, the season-opening event of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour. It will be just the fourth time in 34 international events held in Brazil and first since 1991 that it there will be an all-USA gold medal match.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first FIVB-sanctioned event (Rio de Janeiro in 1987), the international beach volleyball circuit began for the fourth consecutive season with the Brasília Open will be held through Sunday on The Esplanada dos Ministérios in Quadrante 1 as the Brazilian capital celebrated its 52nd anniversary on Saturday in the area surrounding the venue.
Winning their semifinal matches Saturday afternoon in front of a raucous overflow, home-country, crowd of over 6,000, USA’s top-seeded Dalhausser/Rogers came from behind to overcame Brazil’s third-seeded Ricardo Santos/Pedro Cunha, 24-26, 21-13 and 15-10 in 59 minutes and USA’s Fuerbringer/Lucena came from behind in three sets to defeat Spain’s fifth-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera, 13-21, 21-18, 15-13 in 56 minutes.
Since losing in the second round on Thursday, Dalhausser/Rogers have now won six straight matches and have a 7-1 record here heading into Sunday’s finale. Fuerbringer/Lucena lost in the third round on Friday and have a 6-1 record in this tournament. On the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, Dalhausser/Rogers have a 5-1 record against Fuerbringer/Lucena although Fuerbringer/Lucena won their last meeting on August 4 of last year in two sets in pool play in Austria at the Klagenfurt grand slam.
Frequently quieting the home-country crowd in the second semifinal with a well-executed game plan while limiting mistakes, Dalhausser/Rogers battled back and forth with Ricardo/Cunha in the first set where there were 17 ties and three lead changes. In the second and deciding third sets, Dalhausser/Rogers methodically and doggedly reacted throughout both to earn their third consecutive gold medal match in the Brasília Open. Brazil scored first in the deciding third set, but the Americans went ahead to stay a 3-2 maintaining, gradually pulling away, ending when Ricardo’s serve went long.
USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers, the 2008 Olympic champions, are playing in their 50th FIVB SWATCH World Tour event as a team and have made it to their 38th final four. They have played in 28 gold medal matches and have earned a gold medal in 21 of them. Individually, the veteran Rogers has played in 97 FIVB events and Dalhausser has 53 on his resume. They have made the final four in all three of their appearances in this event with two gold medals and one fourth place as they join the rest of the field in the quest for a spot in the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“We made some mistakes in the first set and they took advantage, especially when we had set point three times,” commented Rogers afterwards. “We really should have won the first set but we made up for it in the second and third sets with some very good overall play. We’ve gotten better as the tournament has gone one and we survived three matches today so we are looking forward to only one match tomorrow. I think one of the strengths of our team is that we know each other well and overcome the difficult moments in the sand. Usually teams lose their rhythm and do not recover. We try not to give up and keep a balance in the game. I have been playing around Matt (Fuerbringer) for over 20 years and we know each other’s game very, very well. It will be great playing them again.”
In the first semifinal Saturday, USA’s Fuerbringer/Lucena started slow and Spain’s Gavira/Herrera started fast. After losing the first set by a wide margin, the Americans changed their serving strategies and concentrated more on passing and setting to keep the Spaniards at bay in the second and third sets. Fuerbringer/Lucena were in the contender’s bracket and had to win two earlier matches Saturday before meeting Gavira/Herrera in their third match of the day.
USA’s Fuerbringer/Lucena have played in 24 world tour events as a team and have made it to their fifth final four without a gold medal but they do have two silver medals as a tandem. Individually, Their best finish in this event was a fifth place last year. Fuerbringer has played in 61 FIVB events and Lucena has been in 35.
“We were very tired after three matches but when the third match is a semifinal you have to put yourself in the show”, said Fuerbringer after his team’s win. “In the third set we came in with much more energy, ready to win. For us this win is very important because we are still in the race for the second spot for the United States in the Olympics. Each tournament is crucial as is each match. Tomorrow our only expectation is to win no matter who we play, but we always love to play fellow Americans like Phil and Todd.”
Bronze medal matchup
Prior to Sunday’s gold medal match, Brazil’s Ricardo/Cunha and Spain’s Gavira/Herrera will meet in the bronze medal match on the Brasília Open center court in the first meeting between the two teams. Herrera, playing with Javier Bosma, lost to Ricardo and Emanuel Rego in the gold medal match at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Brazil’s third-seeded Ricardo/Cunha, both veterans are only playing in this sixth FIVB SWATCH World Tour event together and have made it to their third final four. In total, Ricardo has played in 177 FIVB tournaments with 53 gold medals while Cunha has played in 87 tournaments overall with eighth gold medals, including two since forming the partnership with Ricardo. While this is their first time playing together in this tournament, Ricardo won the gold medal in this event in 2009 playing with Emanuel Rego.
Spain’s Gavira/Herrera are playing in their 33rd world tour event as a team and they now have 11 final four appearances but are still striving for their first FIVB gold medal. This is the second event back for the team as Herrera injured his knee last July in the grand slam in Gstaad, Switzerland and returned for the last event of the season where the team had a fifth place finish. In two previous tournaments here, they finished ninth both in 2010 and last year. Herrera has had three FIVB gold medals in his career, but none with Gavira.
Fifth place finishes
Playing out of the contender’s bracket with one loss each, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers advanced to their semifinal match with Brazil’s Ricardo/Cunha by defeating another Brazilian team 25th-seeded Evandro Goncalves/Harley Marques Saturday, 21-17, 21-17 in 43 minutes.
USA’s Fuerbringer/Lucena earned a semifinal spot against Spain’s Gavira/Herrera by defeating Germany’s seventh-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik. 21-19, 26-24 in 48 minutes.
Brazil’s Goncalves/Marques and Germany’s Erdmann/Matysik finished the Brasília Open with fifth place finishes and each will split $9,100 prizes.
Brazil’s Alison injured
While the large esplanade area where the tournament venue is located hosted thousands of spectators celebrating the Brazilian holiday, a damper was put on the festive throng early Saturday when Brazil’s Alison Cerutti was injured while retrieving an errant ball on center court. Trailing 15-17 in the first set to USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers, Alison crashed into the banner frame behind the first referee after keeping the ball in play, injuring his right forearm and was unable to continue the match so he and his teammate Emanuel Rego, the reigning FIVB SWATCH World Tour and FIVB SWATCH World Champions, forfeited to the Americans.
“I always go after every ball that Emanuel digs and did not see the banner frame I was concentrating so hard just to get to the ball,” commented Alison to the media following on-site medical treatment. “After I hit it, I got a little anxious, seeing some blood on my arm. I protected my head with my arm. Fortunately I had just a cut on my forearm and the doctor needed 12 stitches to close the wound. It’s too bad that it happened in Brazil, but it was not too serious. We are not going to play the next event, in Poland, as it was already planned, and I will have enough time to recover for Shanghai.”
The gold medal teams in each gender in the Brasília Open will each split $30,000, the silver $21,000, the bronze $15,000 and fourth place $11,200.
Brazil’s big beach history
Brazil has staged a FIVB SWATCH World Tour event every year since the start of the international series for men in 1989 and women in 1992. This will be the 34th men’s event and 29th women’s tournament on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour held in Brazil. It is also the 14th time that the FIVB SWATCH World Tour will have its season-opening event in Brazil. This is also the fourth consecutive year the tour has come to Brasília.
Road to London
Nearly 140 teams from 35 countries have been part of the event being held here for the fourth straight year. The women’s portion of the event ended Friday with China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang defeating Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes for the gold medal. With the season-opening event on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour calendar in Brazil, the road to the 2012 London Olympic Games has resumed as 16 of the 24 teams in each gender will be determined through year-long Olympic rankings on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour. This event is the first of nine double-gender events on the 2012 world tour schedule. Beach Volleyball at the London Olympic Games will run from July 28 to August 9.