Gstaad, Switzerland, July 4, 2012—Amidst the continuing peaceful and serene atmosphere of summertime in an enchantingly sun-drenched quaint village in the lush Swiss Alps, eight encouraged and inspired teams from eight countries fought through the challenge of two qualification round matches Wednesday to advance to the 32-team men’s main draw which starts Thursday at the $600,000 1to1 energy Grand Slam in Gstaad, Switzerland.
The world’s top beach volleyball tandems have returned to Switzerland as the extremely popular double-gender event marks the 13th consecutive visit by the world tour with Gstaad hosting 11 men’s and 12 previous women’s events. Village Gstaad is nestled in a magnificent valley in Southwestern Switzerland at 3,440 feet (1,050 meters) above sea-level, the highest altitude a FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour stop is held annually.
EIGHT COUNTRIES SOAR
While host country Switzerland had three teams and surprisingly Venezuela with two teams still in the competition in the second and final round of the qualification tournament, the eight countries advancing teams following two rounds of qualification Wednesday to earn spots in the men’s main draw in Gstaad were: Brazil, Georgia, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Venezuela.
The fifth of an FIVB-record eight grand slams on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour schedule, the 1to1 energy Grand Slam began with women’s country quota matches on Monday with the women’s single elimination qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw on Wednesday through Friday. The women’s semifinals and medal matches will be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. The men’s schedule mirrors the women, and started one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday.
Finishing play just before a strong rainstorm caused a long delay early Wednesday evening postponing the completion of women’s play, advancing to the men’s main draw are Brazil’s second-seeded qualification team of Rhooney Ferramenta/Thiago Santos Barbosa, Georgia’s top-seeded Renato Gomes/Jorge Terceiro, Italy’s fifth-seeded Matteo Ingrosso/Paulo Ingrosso, Norway’s sixth-seeded Geir Eithun/Iver Horrem, Sweden’s third-seeded Hannes Brinkborg/Stefan Gunnarsson, Switzerland’s seventh-seeded Philip Gabathuler/Mirco Gerson, USA’s eighth-seeded Casey Jennings/William Strickland and Venezuela’s 20th-seeded .Jackson Henriquez/Farid Mussa.
Giving host country Switzerland four teams to root for in the main draw, Switzerland’s Gabathuler/Gerson moved to the main draw by outlasting Kazakhstan’s Alexey Kuleshov/Dmitriy Yakovlev, 21-18, 13-21 and 15-12 in 51 minutes.
Following his team’s advancement win, Gerson had these comments, “I am not as experienced as Philip and I think it showed, especially in the second set when I wasn’t as steady as I should be. It felt the great atmosphere of our fans, but I tried to concentrate. The rain didn’t bother us at all, that’s part of beach volleyball too.”
With two qualifying match victories over higher seeded teams, Venezuela’s Henriquez/Mussa was the only team to win two matches on the way to the main draw. In the first round, they defeated Belgium’s 13th-seeded Ward Coucke/Tom van Walle, 21-14, 19-21 and 15-13 in a one hour, three-minute match that was the longest men’s match of the day. In their final match, they upset France’s fourth-seeded brothers Andy and Kevin Ces in the biggest seed break-through of the qualification rounds, 21-17, 21-8 in 32 minutes.
Brazil’s Ferramenta/Santos Barbosa won a country quota match on Monday to moving to the qualification tournament and then defeated Estonia’s Kristo Kollo/Rivo Vesik, 23-21, 17-21 and 15-9 in 49 minutes as three of the advancement matches went three sets. Georgia’s Tomes/Terceiro beat Switzerland’s 17th-seed Andreas Sutter/Roman Sutter, 21-13, 21-19 in 39 minutes and Italy’s Ingrossos eliminated Venezuela’s 12th-seeded Igor Hernandez/Jesus Villafane, 219-19, 21-16 in 41 minutes.
In their advancement matches, Norway’s Eithun/Horrem came from behind to stop Switzerland’s 22nd-seeded Bernhard Beyeler/Rafael Bissig, 10-21, 22-20 and 15-12 in 48 minutes and Sweden’s Brinkborg/Gunnarsson advanced by winning over Russia’s Alexander Likholetov/Alexey Yutvalin, 21-14, 21-11 in 34 minutes.
After stopping a host country team, Norway’s Horrem said, “The Swiss team was serving very well at the beginning of the match and it definitely showed in the result of the first set as we had our difficulties. But I felt as we won more and more control over the match that yes, we could make it to a win. We are in a good rhythm now and we are looking forward to playing in our first Grand Slam main event together.”
HAPPY 4TH OF JULY
After winning a tough country quota match on Monday before the qualification tournament, USA’s Jennings/Strickland enjoyed the American 4th of July holiday, Swiss style, by beating back Germany’s ninth-seeded Markus Bockermann/Mischa Urbatzka, 21-19, 21-13 in 35 minutes.
Following his team’s qualification advancement round victory, Jennings, who is married to star US women’s player Kerri Walsh who is also playing in Gstaad (with Misty May-Treanor), stated, “We were a little bit nervous the first set, since we had never played against them before and we knew they were a good team. In the second set, we had a perfect game plan and it worked very, very well. I stayed focused until the very last defensive play and I scored the final point to help us win the match. Now in the main draw, we will just take one match at a time, but our goal is to obviously win every single pool play match to start with and then go from there.”
The 32-team men’s main draw starts Thursday with two days of round-robin pool play where each team will play three matches, the top three teams in each pool will then advance to the 24-team single elimination bracket phase which will start Saturday afternoon.
TOP PLAYERS RETURN
The talented field includes the three of the final four finishers from both genders from last year. Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Gstaad were Brazil’s Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego (gold), USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (silver), Germany’s Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann (bronze) and Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel (fourth place). Brink/Reckermann aren’t playing here this year.
USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers have won two gold medals in Gstaad (2007 and 2010), Emanuel has won here three times including 2005 and 2006 with Ricardo Santos (who is playing this year with Pedro Cunha) and last year with Alison with whom he is playing this year as well. The 2007 title won by USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers was the FIVB SWATCH World Championship.
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold for the second straight year, with silver going to China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, the bronze to Italy’s Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti and fourth place for the second straight year to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes. Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes are not in the women’s Gstaad field this year.
BIG FIELD IN GSTAAD
A total of 139 teams from 35 countries (76 men’s teams from 28 countries and 63 women’s teams from 23 countries) are competing in the 1to1 Energy Grand Slam, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States, and Venezuela.
FIVB SWATCH WORLD TOUR CALENDAR
The 2012 calendar features 13 women's and 13 men's events, including nine double-gender tournaments, within four of the five FIVB confederations in addition to the approaching 2012 London Olympic Games on July 28 to August 9 in a purpose-built 15,000 stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parde. The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour is offering $6.32-million in prize money.
BIG PURSE IN GSTAAD
The gold medal teams in each gender in the 1to1 energy Grand Slam will each split $43,500, the silver $29,500, the bronze $23,000 and fourth place $18,400. The women’s medal matches will be held Saturday and the men’s medal matches will be played on Sunday in the raucous Gstaad stadium center court. For more information on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org. For additional information on the 1to1 energy Grand Slam, please visit the event website at www.beachworldtour.ch.
NEXT STOP: BERLIN
After the 1to1 energy Grand Slam, the 2012 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with the next grand slam double-gender event July 10-15 in Berlin (Berlin Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000. The 1to1 energy Grand Slam is the 239th women’s event and 279th men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB SWATCH World Tour event was played Feb. 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first women’s event was played Aug. 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain.