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Maiden World Tour gold for Raoufi and Mirzaali at Babolsar

Rahman Raoufi and Abolhamed Mirzaali triumph with the trophy and their first ever World Tour gold
Babolsar, Iran, October 12, 2018 – Rahman Raoufi and Abolhamed Mirzaali topped the podium at the Babolsar one-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. At the age of 40, Raoufi finally won his first ever gold medal on the World Tour. The same applies for his 29-year-old partner. As a pair, they had one bronze and two silver medals so far, while Raoufi also had one silver and one bronze with his previous teammate, Bahman Salemiinjehboroun.

In the final, the second-seeded Iranians defeated fifth-seeded Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko of Kazakhstan. The well-seasoned duo, consisting of 37-year-old Dyachenko and 35-year-old Sidorenko, have played on the World Tour for many seasons, at 63 events so far, but the silver at Babolsar is the maiden medal for either of them.

The bronze went to Iranian wild cards Alireza Aghajanighasab and Abbas Pourasgari, seeded 12th. 29-year-old Pourasgari added a second medal to his World Tour showcase just one week after he won his first one, also bronze, at Bandar Torkaman, but with a different partner, Aghamohammad Salagh. His new teammate, 20-year-old Aghajani, reached his first podium at Babolsar.

The all-Asian podium at Babolsar

In the first set of the gold medal match, Sidorenko and Dyachenko took an early 5-2 lead. Cheered on from the crowded stands, Raoufi and Mirzaali caught up at 9-9, but stepped upfront only at 19-18, eventually winning two in a row to close the set by a minimum margin. The tight battle continued throughout the second set. Following a few changes in the lead, the Iranians gained a slight lead in the second half and held on to it through the end. Raoufi hammered a sizzling cross-court spike to close the game on second match point at 2-0 (21-19, 21-19).

In the bronze medal game, Aghajani and Pourasgari delivered a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) shutout of sixth-seeded Slovenians Danijel Pokersnik and Gasper Plahutnik. The European team saved two set points before the Iranians finished the first part off at a three-point margin. The home pair stayed in control throughout the second set and comfortably cruised to a podium finish. 

In a thrilling three-set semifinal that lasted over an hour, in which all sets finished at the narrowest of margins, two of them in overtime, Sidorenko and Dyachenko persevered for a 2-1 (24-22, 19-21, 16-14) to advance to the big final. In the earlier semifinal, Raoufi and Mirzaali had to face much fewer issues against Pokersnik and Plahutnik and mastered a speedy 2-0 (21-12, 21-13) victory. 

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