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Smedins ignores fraternal bond to make winning start

Janis Smedins (left) and Aleksandrs Sorokins had to be at their best against familiar opponents in their first match
Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 2, 2013 – Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs made a winning start to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013, but one needed to beat his elder brother and the other his former partner to do so.

Smedins was up against his brother Toms Smedins, while Aleksandrs Samoilovs was facing Ruslans Sorokins, the man he played with at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the fifth seeds needed to fight back from an opening set loss to win 2-1 (18-21, 27-25, 15-12).

“It is strange because it is the first time we’ve played one another, even though we practice all summer and all winter together,” Janis Smedins said. “It is the first tournament when we have played each other and both teams wanted to win. It was a tough game at the beginning and they played really well.

“We didn’t want to play another Latvian team in the World Championships, but such is the draw and you have to deal with it.”

Janis Smedins and Samoilovs are enjoying an excellent season having won a gold medal and two silvers on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and are favourites to top their pool. 

With Toms Smedins and Sorokins’ opening match out of the way, they can now concentrate on trying to win their next pool matches against The Netherlands Daan Spijkers and Christiaan Varenhorst and Daniel Mullner and Jorg Wutzl of Austria. 

“I wasn’t disappointed because we were playing in the same pool,” Toms Smedins said. “If it had been single elimination, then I would have been disappointed because it would mean one of us would be out, but now both brothers have the chance to reach the next round.”

Champions interrupted

Reigning champions Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti made a winning start to the defence of their world title with a 2-1 (21-15, 13-21, 15-9) win over Poland’s Jaroslaw Lech and Damian Wojtasik.

The match was stopped early in the first set after a thunderstorm passed over the venue and held up play for about 15 minutes. 

“It was surprising, but we always know that here after the rain the sunshine comes and we only had to wait 15 minutes,” Emanuel said. “We played well after that. It was very surprising because we starting to get into the mood, with the motivation to play and suddenly all the tree leaves started falling on the court, but we never gave up.”

Eventually play resumed and while the local pair fought back to win the second set, much to the delight of the centre court crowd, Emanuel and Alison used their experience in the tie-break to seal the win. 

“This is our main goal for 2013, especially because we are the reigning champions,” Emanuel added. “It was surprising to have a match like this, it was a big test for us to play this Polish team that we’ve never played before and it was difficult to play against them. Then the thunderstorm came, so it was a good and challenging step in the defence of the World championships.”

Swedish surprise

Also getting off to a winning start were Swedish pair Hannes Brinkborg and Stefan Gunnarsson, who beat Dutch veterans Richard Schuil and Reinder Nummerdor 2-1 (21-18, 25-27, 15-11).

Having played mainly in the qualification rounds during the World Tour the Swedes appeared energised by being part of the main draw and took quick control of the match. The Dutch pair fought back in the second, but Brinkborg and Gunnarsson went four points ahead at 8-4 in the tie-break and then won the match with a Gunnarsson serve that clipped the net tape and dropped inside Nummerdor and Schuil’s side of the court. 

“They are fantastic opponents and have so much experience,” Brinkborg said. “They’ve been fourth and fifth in the Olympics and won the European Championships twice and of course they had very successful indoor careers before that. 

“We are very happy that we succeeded in beating them. To be honest, we haven’t been playing our best lately, but of course it is a World Championships and we are hoping for a lot, but our expectations are really low. We have a lot of hopes for the tournament and we know that on a good day we can beat a good team. We know that we have the possibility in every game, but it is tough here and you need to play really well every game.”

The men’s competition continues on Wednesday with another round of pool play. After the final round on Thursday 32 teams, the first and second ranked in each pool and the top eight third ranked teams, advance to the elimination phase. The semifinals and medal matches are scheduled for Sunday. The women’s competition is one day ahead and concludes on Saturday.

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