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World Tour champs off to winning start

Janis Smedins (left) and Aleksandrs Samoilovs are aiming to return to their World Tour winning form
August 21, 2014 – FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour champions Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs were in determined mood as the Stare Jablonki Grand Slam men’s main draw started on Thursday. 

The Latvian pair started with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) win over their Baltic rivals Kristo Kollo and Rivo Vesik of Estonia before they ignored the cheers of a partisan centre court crowd to defeat Poland’s multi-age group world champions Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 2-0 (21-14, 21-14). 

“It has started well this tournament and I hope we continue like this,” Smedins said. “Tomorrow we have another tough match, against Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson (USA) and they are not the easiest team to play against, so it will be a tough match.”

Smedins has good memories of Stare Jablonki; in 2012 he and Martins Plavins won their first Grand Slam gold medals, a week after they had claimed bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

At the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships at the same venue though he and Samoilovs exited at the second knockout round, but they ended the season top of the World Rankings. 

This year they haven’t found their best form and have so far won only the Puerto Vallarta Open as well as claim silver at the Shanghai Grand Slam. 

“Last season was very successful for us and we won a lot of medals, but this year we’ve been to the semis five time and finished fourth four times,” Smedins added. 

“Maybe it is a little bit of luck, maybe we need to believe in ourselves a bit more because we’ve lost five times in the quarterfinals and all of the matches went to three sets with two points’ difference. We just need to believe in ourselves a little bit more.” 

Polish pair aiming higher still

Michal Kadziola and Jakub Szalankiewicz kept the home fans happy as they ended the day with a pair of wins. 

They began by beating Brazilian veterans Marcio Araujo and Ricardo Santos 2-1 (15-21, 21-18, 15-10) and then followed up by defeating Germany’s Sebastian Fuchs and Thomas Kaczmarek 2-1 (24-22, 16-21, 17-15).

Despite their success Kadziola is still aiming for better.

“I’m not overly happy with my performance,” he said. “My partner played well though; his defence made the difference and that is why we won.”

Kadziola and Szalankiewicz will now play Germany’s fourth seeds Kay Matysik and Jonathan Erdmann in their final pool match with the victor progressing directly to the second knockout round, while the losing team must negotiate the first knockout round. 

From there teams play straight elimination until the medal matches, which take place on Sunday. 

“We want a top 10 finish,” Kadziola continued. “I didn’t really want to play on centre court today, but we had to do so. There is extra pressure and we want to play well, but I want to play on centre court on Sunday, not Thursday.”

The double-gender US$800,000 FIVB Stare Jablonki Grand Slam runs from Tuesday August 19 until Sunday August 24 when the men’s medal matches take place. It is the 13th event and the ninth Grand Slam on the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar that features 10 Grand Slams and nine 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 Sao Paolo Grand Slam which runs from September 23-28. 

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