Brasília, Brazil, April 22, 2012 - Maintaining their steady composure under pressure and relying on their normal consistent play in spite of temperatures that hovered above 32C, Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers won the battle of American teams over compatriots Matt Fuerbringer/Nick Lucena in Sunday’s internationally televised men’s gold medal match at the $380,000 Brasília Open, the season-opening event of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour.
In the finale that pitted two teams that know each other very well in front over an overflow centre court crowd of over 6,000 enthusiastic fans, USA’s top-seeded Dalhausser/Rogers controlled the gold medal match from start to finish over their fourth-seeded compatriots Fuerbringer/Lucena, earning their third straight Brasilia Open title, 21-17, 21-18 in 44 minutes. Dalhausser/Rogers split $30,000 for winning the gold medal while Fuerbringer/Lucena received $21,000 for the silver.
“We love playing in Brazil, we love playing Americans and we love winning in Brazil and it certainly showed this week,” Rogers said. “We had a tough week, especially losing in the second round and having to come back in our first tournament of the year and me coming off a serious knee injury. In the second set I was tired and made a couple of mistakes and they got back in the game. We had a long way to go to win the title, including beating four teams from Brazil, which isn’t easy, and we had to play nine games in the tournament which doesn’t happen often. We know Matt and Nick so well we have a lot more rallies than against most opponents, but I can say any questions I had about our off time from the World Tour are gone.”
It was the 13th time in the history of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour that two teams from the United States played for gold. The last time was July 24, 2011 in Quebec, Canada when the same two teams met with Dalhausser/Rogers also victorious. It was also only the fourth time in 34 FIVB events held in Brazil and first since 1991 that there was an all-USA gold medal match.
Brasilia was the first tournament for Dalhausser/Rogers since Rogers injured his knee last August in Aland, Finland, with Rogers showing no ill effects from the surgery in Brazil. After losing in the second round on Thursday, Dalhausser/Rogers won seven straight matches to finish the Brasília Open with an 8-1 record. Fuerbringer/Lucena lost in the third round on Friday and ended with a 6-2 record. On the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, Dalhausser/Rogers now have a 6-1 record against Fuerbringer/Lucena. This was the third time the two teams have met in a FIVB gold medal match and Dalhausser/Rogers have won all three.
USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers, the 2008 Beijing Olympic champions, were playing in their 50th FIVB SWATCH World Tour event as a team making it to the final four for the 39th time. They have now played in 29 gold medal matches, winning 22 of them. Individually, 38-year-old Rogers has played in 97 FIVB events and Dalhausser has 53 on his resume. They have made the final four in all four of their appearances in this event with three 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.
USA’s Fuerbringer/Lucena have played in 24 World Tour events as a team and have reached the final four five times without a gold medal but they do have two silver medals to their name. Their best previous finish in Brasilia was a fifth place last year. Fuerbringer has played in 61 FIVB events and Lucena has been in 35.
USA vs. USA by sets
Setting the tone early, Dalhausser blocked Lucena’s kill attempt in the first set and the only tie was at 1-1 as Dalhausser/Rogers made few errors and scored on several blocks and cut shots by both players. Fuerbringer/Lucena did mount a rally to close to 15-13, but the Olympic champions pulled away from there to win the set that ended with a serve by Lucena that went long.
The second set was closer in a set of runs, tied at 6-6 when Dalhausser/Rogers ran off three straight points, only to see Fuerbringer/Lucena come back with two points of their own. The last tie in the set was at 12-12, when Dalhaausser had another of his massive blocks followed by a Rogers poke cut shot for a point and they rallied for four points. After several long rallies which seemed to wear on both teams in the heat, Dalhausser/Rogers led 20-16 before another by Fuerbringer/Lucena closed it to 20-18 before the set and match ended another colourful Brasília Open when Lucena’s serve went long
Brazil vs. Spain bronze medal match
In Sunday’s bronze medal match, Brazil’s third-seeded Ricardo Santos/Pedro Cunha pleased their packed-house, home-country fans on centre court by defeating Spain’s fifth-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera, 21-18, 21-14 in 39 minutes. The first set was played very close up to 12-12 before the Brazilians pulled ahead by two points with strong play at the net by both Ricardo and Cunha. In the final set, Cunha started the Brazilian roll and he and Ricardo never trailed and there were no ties as the closest Gavira/Herrera got was 5-4 before the Brazilians took off and kept a four to five point margin until they scored the final two points for the seven-point victory margin. Ricardo/Cunha split $15,000 for the bronze and Gavira/Herrera received $11,200 for their fourth place finish. Both teams finished with 4-2 records in this event.
It was the first meeting between the two teams, but not between Ricardo and Herrera. Herrera, playing with Javier Bosma, lost to Ricardo and Emanuel Rego in the gold medal match at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
“It is very important for our team to start the international season with a podium placement,” said Ricardo. “The FIVB SWATCH World Tour is our top priority this season and with this result we are close to achieving our biggest goal of representing Brazil in the Olympics. We earned important points, which will improve our position in the ranking and that will help us in the next tournaments. I am glad as we are having the results we expected.”
Brazil’s Ricardo/Cunha, both veterans, were playing in only their sixth FIVB SWATCH World Tour event together and made it to their third final four. 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. This was the team’s first bronze medal.
Spain’s Gavira/Herrera were 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 was 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.
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 was the 34th men’s event and 29th women’s tournament on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour held in Brazil. It was also the 14th time that the FIVB SWATCH World Tour had its season-opening event in Brazil and fourth consecutive year the tour came to Brasília.
Road to London
Nearly 140 teams from 35 countries were part of this year’s The women’s competition 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 was 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.
Busy schedule ahead
After the Brasília stop, the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour continues with events on four consecutive weeks. The genders split venues next week for open events with the women in Sanya, China and the men in Myslowice, Poland. Following those events will be consecutive double-gender grand slam events in Shanghai, China (April 30-May 6) and Beijing, China (May 7-13) and a men’s event in Prague, Czech Republic (May 22-27).