Shanghai, China, May 3, 2012 – Nicolai Paolo and Daniele Lupo maintained their strong start to 2012 by comfortably winning their first two pool matches at the Shanghai Grand Slam presented by Jinshan Xinchen.
First off they defeated Tarjei Skarlund and Martin Spinnangr of Norway, then added a second win against the Netherlands’ Jon Stiekema and Christiaan Varenhorst.
The victories mean the Italian pair will now face the 2011 world champions Emanuel and Alison to decide who will top their pool, avoid the round of 24 and go straight through to the round of 16, after they also won two from two.
“We can still play better, but the important thing is we won,” Nicolai said. “We have to get better bit by bit, but for now we have to worry about getting out of this group and the match tomorrow.”
“It certainly won’t be easy,” Lupo added, “but the main thing as ever is to enjoy ourselves and give it the best we can.”
Earlier in 2012 the duo recovered from finishing 17th in Brasilia, the opening tournament of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, to finish with a creditable fourth at the Silesia Open in Myslowice.
“We had a few physical problems early on in Brasilia, but we were able to overcome them and have a great tournament,” Nicolai continued. “Now we want to become more consistent in our play because then the results will come.”
The side that took gold in Myslowice, Cunha and Ricardo, also won two from two in their opening matches.
The Brazilians overcame USA’s John Mayer and Brad Keenan 21-19, 19-21, 15-10 in a fiery match, before they won in the best of three sets against Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins.
“We were worried because we played the last two tournaments through till the Sunday and had two long trips,” Cunha said. “But we said we would see how it went on the first day.
“We had some tough moments, but we started to play our better game again.”
Cunha has only been paired with Ricardo since the middle of 2011, but already they have won three golds and a bronze on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour.
“It is pleasure to have such a partnership,” Cunha said. “He is a legend and the best player I have seen play.
“It is easier playing alongside him and now I can see why I lost against him so many times. He sees things different from everyone else.”
Reigning Olympic champions and defending Shanghai gold medallists Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser received an early shock from China’s Shun Zhou and Jian Li.
They were pushed hard in all three sets, but eventually won 21-18, 17-21, 22-20.
The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour is scheduled over a seven month period and features 12 tournaments for both men and women. For the men the season starts in April in Brazil and ends in October in Morocco.
The US$600,000 Shanghai Grand Slam is the second of nine double gender events and the winning pair share a $43,500 purse.
It is the ninth straight year in which Shanghai has hosted an FIVB SWATCH World Tour event and the men’s final takes place on 6 May.
Following the completion of the Shanghai Grand Slam the World Tour moves onto to China’s capital for the Beijing Grand Slam from 8-13 May.