World champs pushed hard by US qualifiers in Moscow
The Dutch pair eventually won 2-1 (19-21, 21-15, 18-16) in 56 minutes.
It was a relatively quiet day in the men’s draw, with one match on the opening day of competition, but it quickly became apparent that the Dutch pair would have their hands full after they lost the first set.
However, they fought back in the second set and while Hyden and Bourne saved four match points, Meeuwsen and Brouwer claimed victory with the fifth.
“It was hard. We lost the first set, but it was good to get there in the end,” Meeuwsen said. “It was a tough match and we needed to be really focused especially in those last few moments at the end of the match and it became a case of who could focus the best.”
Meeuwsen and Brouwer were the shock victors and completely surpassed their best result when they won the 2013 World Championships.
They admitted at the time that their aim for the season was a Grand Slam quarterfinal finish, which would guarantee them a higher level of national funding and they then added another FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour medal with silver at the Xiamen Grand Slam.
This season their progress has been hampered by a knee injury to Meeuwsen. However, with the 206cm blocker close to full fitness they are beginning to look forward to the rest of 2014 in a positive manner.
“It feels a lot better now,” Meeuwsen said. “This is the third tournament we’ve played; we played two European tournaments and the (CEV) European Championships and physically it is going really well.
“The only thing missing is a lack of rhythm and a lack of practice, but it is getting better every day and we are fighting harder every day. Every ball touch is good, so the more the better and mentally this match was good too, we had to fight to win.”
Also starting with a win were Mariusz Prudel and Grzegorz Fijalek, who defeated Brazilian veteran Ricardo Santos and Alvaro Filho.
Poland’s number one team beat the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships silver medallists, but had to fight back from losing the first set to win 2-1 (18-21, 21-13, 15-11).
“We won a really tough game against Ricardo and we are happy we did it,” Prudel said. “In the first set we didn’t play well, our serves and blocking were good, but there was no sideout. By the third set though, we played really well.”
Prudel and Fijalek have made a slow start to the season, but having reached the European Championships quarterfinals a week ago they are hopeful that they can find their best form ahead of a period of seven World Tour Grand Slams in eight weeks.
“We’ve played two or three tournaments and we played good,” Prudel added. “Hopefully we can continue like that in this tournament.”
The double-gender US$800,000 FIVB Moscow Grand Slam runs from Wednesday, June 11 through to Sunday June 15. It is the sixth event and the second Grand Slam on the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar that features nine Grand Slams and 11 Open tournaments.
The 2014 World Tour began at the Fuzhou Open in China in April and concludes at the Durban Open in South Africa in December. Next up on the World Tour calendar is the Berlin Grand Slam which runs from June 17-22.
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