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Men’s pool play nets 12 undefeated teams at FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam

Orchestrating an Austrian rhapsody to the delight of a full house, Austria's Clemens Doppler, center smashes the Mikasa past Poland's Piotr Kantor Thursday as he and Alexander Hortst directed two pool play wins at the FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam.
Klagenfurt, Austria, July 31, 2014 — Overcast skies light, intermittent rain didn’t dampen the spirits of several thousand spectators who enjoyed an Austrian rhapsody of pool play match victories and enjoyed 12 men’s teams from nine countries winning their first two of three round-robin matches during Thursday’s start of the 32-team men’s main draw at the astoundingly, amazingly popular double-gender US$800,000 FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam.

Two teams from Germany, the Netherlands and the United States along with one team each from host Austria, Brazil, Chile, Latvia, Poland and Russia all opened pool play Thursday with double wins at the 2014 FIVB World Tour stop being held in Klagenfurt through Sunday in a spectacular purpose-built venue along side of picturesque Lake Wörthersee.

Women’s single-elimination play began Thursday and men’s will start Friday with the women’s round of 16 and quarterfinals on Friday and men’s on Saturday. Women’s semifinals and men’s round of 16 and quarterfinals will be held on Saturday. The women’s medal matches closing the women’s competition at the FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam will be held on Saturday.  On Sunday, the men’s semifinals and medal matches will conclude the event.

Standing tall as the powerful pines surrounding picturesque Lake Wörthersee with 2-0 records in pool play with one match remaining Friday are USA’s top-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Sean Rosenthal, Poland’s second-seeded Mariusz Prudel/Grzegorz Fijalek, Brazil’s third-seeded Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Latvia’s fourth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins, Germany’s sixth-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik, Austria’s ninth-seeded Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst, Russia’s 11th-seeded Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov, USA’s 13th-seeded John Hyden/Tri Bourne, Netherlands’ 14th-seeded Jon Stiekema/Christiaan Varenhorst, Germany’s 17th-seeded Alexander Walkenhorst/Stefan Windscheif, Netherlands’ 18th-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen and Chile’s 28th-seeded Marco Grimalt/Estaban Grimalt.

Four major seed breakthroughs in the first round of pool play Thursday saw Chile’s 28th-seeded qualification team Marco Grimalt/Esteban Grimalt upset Brazil’s fifth-seeded Pedro Salgado/Emanuel Rego in three sets 21-23, 24-22 and 15-12 in 54 minutes; Canada’s 25th-seeded Chaim Schalk/Ben Saxton upset Brazil’s eighth-seeded Ricardo Santos/Alvaro Filho in three sets, 26-24, 19-21 and 15-9 in 53 minutes and Kazakhstan’s 26th-seeded Alexandr Dyachenko/Alexey Sidorenko needed only two sets to beat Italy’s seventh-seeded Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo, 21-19, 21-14 in 36 minutes and Australia’s 21st-seeded Christopher McHugh/Isaac Kapa knocked off Spain’s 12th-seeded Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira, 24-22, 21-17 in 40 minutes.

Getting things started for Team Austria in front of a near-capacity center court crowd, Austria’s ninth-seeded Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst had an emotional reunion with the fans and the Klagenfurt stadium as Doppler was injured in last year’s European championships here and this would be his first time back on the Klagenfurt court.

Making a rousing comeback from injury to a cheering, chanting and clearly pro-Austrian crowd, Austria’s Doppler/Horst defeated Poland’s 24th-seeded Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak in straight sets, 21-18, 21-17 in 36 minutes which seemed way too quick for the applauding Austrian audience. Ironically, it was a rematch of sorts as it was the same team that Austria’s Doppler/Horst had to forfeit against last year in the CEV championships after Doppler’s injury.

A visibly shaken, yet inspired Doppler commented after their first match of the day, “This was a very emotional time for me. Exactly 365 days ago I suffered my injury here on the center court in Klagenfurt. To return like this is something I did not dare to even hope for. It was amazing to see the packed stadium in this gloomy weather and the fans definitely helped us win against Poland today. This year is the first time I did not set a goal, I just want us to play as well as we can and see where that takes us.”

Doppler’s teammate Horst said, “This was a big win for us, we had to attack as hard as we could and play our best on defense. Side outs decided this game. Our opponents served well but served even better. I am expecting our next game to be as spectacular as our first—we will do everything we can to win. It’s just so awesome to play in our homeland.”

Capping off a memorable day for the truly diehard Austrian fans, Austria’s Doppler/Horst came back in the late afternoon to win again to the roaring, symphonic cheering of the Austrian center court crowd. This match included a special official’s time out of nearly 11 minutes for the hard-working, hard-raking and precise tilling crew to rework the sand court that had become too hard to safely play on because of the moisture that accumulated over the long day.

In the end, Austria’s Doppler/Horst gave their totally-involved fans a climatic ending to a glorious, if rain-spotted, day on the Klagenfurt center court by defeating Canada’s 25th-seeded Chaim Schalk/Ben Saxton, 21-19, 21-15 in 50 minutes.

After the second win of the day, Horst remarked, “This was a crazy match with some heavy rain at times. It is always hard to predict how a match interruption influences play. This time it didn’t influence us at all. We were able to focus on playing our game, serving well and taking in the amazing audience and atmosphere. We have said it many, many times before, but I can only say it again: Klagenfurt has the best crowd in the entire world of beach volleyball.”

Also adding his own lyrics to Thursday’s Austrian rhapsody, Doppler added after his team’s second center court sterling performance of the day, “I am still at a loss for words. This is the first year that we as a team decided not to set a goal in terms of reach a semifinal or anything. We are focusing our energines on competing as hard as we can and fighting for every point. The crowd has given us so much, they have been cheering for us non-stop during a long, rainy day. I feel like we are absorbing their energy and support and putting into our game.”

Adding another stanza to the Austrian rhapsody for the thousands of adoring fans was Austria’s 10th-seeded Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl finished the Austrian center court concerto with a crowd-pleasing two-set victory over Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Dyachenko/Alexey Sidorenko, 21-15, 23-21 in 41 minutes.

As the host nation, Austria has three men’s and three women’s teams automatically pre-seeded into the main draw. For the men, the Austrian teams in the main draw are Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst (2-0), Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl (1-1) and Tobias Winter/Lorenz Petutschnig (0-2).

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