Myslowice, Poland, April 29, 2012 – Pedro Cunha and Ricardo Santos claimed their third title as a team in just seven FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour events on Sunday in Myslowice. The first-seeded Brazilians defeated compatriots Marcio Araujo and Pedro Solberg in three sets (21-8, 19-21, 15-13) on a blazing hot centre court in Slupna Park.
Cunha and Ricardo have played together since July. They won gold in Stare Jablonski and The Hague last year, and bronze in Brasilia last week. For former world and Olympic champion Ricardo, who also had a short partnership with Marcio before July last year, it was his 53rd individual title, while Cunha picked up his sixth. Former world champion Marcio and Pedro, who won the 2003 under-21 world title with Cunha, claimed their first medal in only their second event together.
In their second encounter to date, Cunha and Ricardo overpowered Marcio and Pedro completely in the first set, Ricardo winning every battle at the net with Pedro. “We did not expect to have to play a tiebreak at that moment,” Cunha said. But Pedro, at 26 the youngest player on court, did what he had to do and played a fantastic second set.
The tiebreak was nerve-racking and the thousands of spectators on centre court climbed on their seats to cheer on the teams. Cunha and Ricardo were trailing at first, but took a two-point-lead at 11-9 after an amazing rally with some excellent digging by Ricardo. The teams were tied again at 12-12 and 13-13, but with a well-placed spike and a shot down the line by Ricardo they claimed victory after 53 minutes.
Cunha: “This was a great game, full of emotions and with great points and a lot of support from the crowd. It has been a great week for us; we remained unbeaten all the way. This is a big win towards our qualification for the Olympics. They are our greatest rivals, but it is not over yet.” Cunha and Ricardo earned 600 points and $30,000, while Marcio and Pedro got 540 points and $21,000.
Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira claimed third place, winning their fifth bronze medal and eighth medal overall (the others were three silvers) in their fourth season together. Their last podium place was at the same venue, losing to Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in the 2010 final. Last year, Herrera injured his knee and the Spanish team missed almost half the season.
The third-seeded Spanish were no match for young Italians Daniele Lupo (20) and Paolo Nicolai (23). Herrera and Gavira won the first set 21-16 and immediately took a 6-0 lead in the second, due to a strong series of serves by Gavira. Italy managed to ward off the first Spanish matchpoint, but Nicolai then served into the net. After 34 minutes, the final score was 21-16, 21-11.
“We expected a more difficult match, as the Italians were very good this tournament,” said Herrera, who won an Olympic silver medal in Athens. “We are very happy with this bronze medal, after losing last week in Brasilia and finishing fourth. Our position on the Olympic ranking looks great, so now we can relax a little and enjoy the World Tour.”
For the Italians, fourth place was their best ever finish; they finished fifth in The Hague last year. Nicolai, who won back-to-back under-21 world titles in 2007 and 2008 with Francesco Giontella, was disappointed but happy at the same time. “It is never good when you lose this way, but I am happy with fourth place. If someone had told me on Tuesday that we would be in the semifinals, I would have said they were crazy.”
Myslowice, a small town in a Polish mining region, was hosting the FIVB World Tour for the fifth consecutive season as a single-gender event. In 2008 and 2011, the women competed in Slupna Park, while in 2009 and 2010 it was a men’s event. The World Tour visits Poland again later this season for the Stare Jablonski Grand Slam in August.
The FIVB SWATCH World Tour now travels to China for the Grand Slams in Shanghai (April 30-May 6) and Beijing (May 7-13). After that, the players prepare for the Olympics in London (July 28-August 9) with six consecutive events in Europe, starting with the men’s Prague Open (May 22-27) and the Grand Slam in Moscow (June 6-12). The 2012 World Tour season features 13 men’s and 13 women’s events in 15 countries.