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Top teams to square off in men’s European Championship semis

Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs will headline the semis of the European Championship on Sunday morning
Cagliari, Italy, June 7, 2014 - The organisers of the 2014 CEV Beach Volleyball European Championship – Final could not ask for a better line-up for the semis coming up on Sunday morning at Poetto beach. Home heroes Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai put on a show of strength in their quarterfinal match with Jon Stiekema and Christiaan Varenhorst of the Netherlands (21-9, 21-16) and in the semis will play Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst who stamped a 21-18, 21-18 victory over last year’s bronze medallists Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland.

The second semifinal will be a remake of last year’s gold medal match in Klagenfurt with Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia taking on reigning European champions Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira of Spain. Samoilovs/Smedins played three close sets with Germany’s sensation Lars Flüggen/Sebastian Fuchs (21-15, 16-21, 15-12) while Herrera/Gavira demolished another German team, Alexander Walkenhorst/Stefan Windscheif (21-14, 21-15).

The 1/4 finals got started with a very much anticipated remake of the Baden Masters final from last week. Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst really wanted to avenge that defeat but especially had much credit from last year’s European Championship in Klagenfurt where Doppler had suffered an ACL injury that shocked thousands of fans in attendance and also prevented the team from continuing their quest for home glory. On Saturday, as the wind was blowing strong on Poetto beach, two-time European champion Doppler and partner Horst played an excellent match to edge last year’s bronze medallists Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland in straight sets (21-18, 21-18) thereby getting their revenge from the Baden Masters final. “We played a very good match and especially my partner showed some superb actions in defence,” Doppler said. “We have been working very hard for three years since we teamed up for the 2012 Olympic season and time has come for this work to bear fruits. We had a very good feeling today, and I am especially happy with our revenge after we had lost to Prudel and Fijalek last week in Baden.”

The second match of the day provided beach volleyball fans with some of the best action they had got to see since the start of the competition. Latvia’s first-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins were up to the real sensation of the tournament, Germany’s Lars Flüggen and Sebastian Fuchs. The winners of last year’s World Tour imposed their rhythm in the opening set which they eventually claimed by 21-15, but Flüggen and Fuchs stormed back strong in the second set where they opened the gap by combining some terrific blocks by Fuchs and Flüggen’s always stellar defence (14-10, 17-12). The Germans simply delighted the local crowd on Poetto beach with a series of classy rallies to make it straight to the final 21-16 and call for the tie-break. Samoilovs and Smedins responded with a 7-4 series in the decisive set before their opponents got closer on a couple of blocks by Fuchs. The score was drawn at nine but after that the superior class of the Latvians made the difference, with the “Lion King”, Aleksandrs Samoilovs, cashing the final 15-12. On Sunday Samoilovs and Smedins will try to improve on the silver medal they won last year in Klagenfurt, the best result for Latvia in the men’s Championship to date, as the Baltic country also has one gold medal won in 2009 by Inguna Minusa and Inese Jursone in the women’s competition.

2013 European champions Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira confirmed their status as serious contenders for back-to-back titles. Their German opponents, Alexander Walkenhorst and Stefan Windscheif, didn't pose any real threat and the Spaniards cruised to a speedy 21-14, 21-15 win to play Samoilovs/Smedins in the semis on Sunday. “We played a very strong opponent that yesterday had performed really well beating Matysik and Erdmann,” Pablo Herrera said. “We were really concentrated and served very well. Tomorrow we play the top-seeded pair of the tournament and we of course expect a very tough match.”

Italy’s home heroes Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai were not less impressive in their quarterfinal match with Jon Stiekema and Christiaan Varenhorst (21-9, 21-16). Though Nicolai joined the match with a large bandage on his right hand, he showed he is on a class of his own right now, setting the tone for a terrific 21-9 in the first set. In front of the packed stands of the centre court, the “Oranjes” tried it hard to provide some resistance in the second set and they eventually succeeded in doing so leading the way by 12-9 at the technical time-out. Two points scored by Daniele Lupo closed the gap for the home side and from there it was a personal show by Paolo Nicolai who sealed the final 21-16 with three consecutive blocks.

“I have to thank the audience because they really were the extra player on the court today,” he said. “However, I do hope they will all come back tomorrow as well because we need their support to make this dream come true. This is also their dream, not only ours. We want to win this tournament and become European champions here at home.”

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