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Alvaro & Saymon “Keepin’ it alive” in Huntington Beach

Alvaro Filho handles the Mikasa during a qualifying win on Wednesday at the Huntington Beach Open with Brazilian partner Saymon Barbosa
Huntington Beach, USA, May 2, 2018 - Midway through the first set of their qualifying match in the 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Huntington Beach Open presented by the AVP, Brazilian stars Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa collided chasing a shot off the net.

Alvaro’s jaw pounded straight into Saymon’s shoulder and he went down with what looked like a knockout blow.

“It was like getting a punch in boxing but these things happen,” Alvaro said. “But it’s better to have two guys on the ball than one or none. We want so much to keep the ball alive.”

Wait, Saymon and Alvaro, who won the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major together, had to qualify for the main draw? That’s the state of Brazilian beach volleyball, where they can roll teams out of qualifying and immediately have them as a threat to win the tournament.

The same could be said for Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes and Vitor Felipe, who also had to win to earn their spot in the main draw that begins on Thursday. In addition, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Ricardo Santos, playing with Oscar Brandao Guimaraes also got through the qualifying.

“Qualifying is always difficult,” Guto said. “You never know what to hope for but we’re happy now. This tournament is different, like an AVP tournament, and we always wanted to play AVP for sure. It’s different, double elimination not like FIVB but we like it. We already play some tournaments in Brazil with double elimination.

“Now we have to play like Saymon and Alvaro. They won in the Major Series last year and they are in the qualification too, so it happens.”

Guto and Vitor have combined to win five FIVB World Tour events, all with different partners. The same can be said about Alvaro and Saymon, who have also won a combined five tournaments with different partners.

So few would be surprised if either of those two teams work their way through the main draw and emerge victorious on Sunday. Maybe that’s why the team they eliminated, Davide Benzi and Andrea Storari of Italy, asked to pose for pictures with the Brazilians.

“Last season I think we finished in the top five but the points system changed and Brazil has very good teams,” Alvaro said. “When they changed the rules, our team went to country quota and qualification.

“We always practise to do our best, to give everything inside the court. Everybody looks for the first spot and we’re not different.”

So they take playing in a qualifier in California with a grain of Pacific Ocean sea salt.

“I have never been here, I have been in Long Beach, I know that California is where our sport was born,” Alvaro said. “It’s a dream for me and Saymon to play in the sand where the best players have played. This is blessed sand.”

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