Nummerdor/Schuil claim first Grand Slam title ever in Beijing
Going into their fourth Grand Slam final after a 22-20, 21-19 win over American 11th seeds Jake Gibb/ Sean Rosenthal in the semifinals, the Dutch duo finally struck gold, overcoming their Italian opponents 21-11, 21-16 in 31 minutes.
The pair earned $43,000 for the win.
“We are really happy to win our first Grand Slam title; it’s very important for us because it’s an Olympic year and we want to be ready for London,” said Schuil. “It’s really the first step and it’s good preparation for the Olympic Games, because there were so many good teams playing here.”
With Nicolai obviously affected by an injury to his stomach muscle, the Italians dropped the first set easily. In the second, they stayed close to 5-4, but the Dutch side steadily pulled away to secure their eighth title together on the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour.
“The Italian was a little bit injured, we saw that, but we were also nervous, because we’d never won a Grand Slam and we wanted to play well,” Schuil added. “So, we are really happy to win. In the whole tournament we played very well. The final wasn’t the best, but good enough.”
Schuil also received the Red Bull MVP award for the final. “I am really happy to get this award; my partner had it for the semifinal. In the final, I think my partner played better than me, but he had already got it. I hope I’ll win more in the future.”
Nicolai/Lupo still made history despite the loss as they captured the first Grand Slam silver for Italian men. And for the first time in FIVB history, the FIVB SWATCH World Tour had both a men’s and women’s team from Italy in the final four and the gold medal match. In the women’s action that concluded on Saturday, Greta Cicolari/ Marta Menegatti finished runners-up to Larissa Franca/ Juliana Felisberta of Brazil.
Having eliminated Beijing Olympic champions Todd Rogers/ Philip Dalhausser of the United States earlier in the tournament, Nicolai/Lupo produced another major upset as they trounced reigning world champions Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego of Brazil 21-16, 21-13 in 31 minutes to secure their first appearance in any FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour final. The Italian duo snapped a four-match losing streak against Alison/ Emanuel.
“I don’t know (how we made it); it’s incredible, because in one tournament we beat Rogers/Dalhausser and Emanuel/ Alison, maybe the best teams in the world,” said Nicolai. “Emanuel, Rogers, Dalhausser are like my heroes. I couldn’t imagine that one day I could beat these players. It’s a fantastic moment for us. When you play a team like Emanuel/Alison, you just have to play 100 perfect and maybe we did that today.”
Playing shoulder to shoulder for the second season, the 23-year-old Nicolai and 21-year-old Lupo believe that the Chinese capital is the lucky place for them. “It’s our first final; we can’t forget this moment and we can’t forget Beijing,” said Nicolai.
“The Italian team played their best this morning in the semifinal; they played a very consistent game,” said Emanuel. “We tried to change strategy during the match, but it was impossible to stop them. They were playing at a very high level at that moment.”
Fifth-seeded Alison/Emanuel recovered to beat Gibb/Rosenthal 21-13, 21-16 for the bronze medal.
“Alison and me are very happy to win the bronze medal here in Beijing. We are still counting points for the seeding of the London Olympic Games, so I’m very happy with third place,” said the 39-year-old Emanuel, who won a gold in Athens in 2004 and a bronze at Beijing in 2008, both with Ricardo Santos. He’s now looking forward to his fifth Olympic journey.
“Every time, I get more excited and more emotional because when you work hard for three years to get to the Olympic Games, you need to be very satisfied with your game,” he said.
After a break of one week, the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour will continue in the Czech Republic with the men’s Prague Open.
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