Russian duo silence home crowd to reach main draw in Berlin
The Russian team was in impressive form from start to finish and didn’t lose their concentration for one minute to end with a 21-19, 21-19 victory.
“Every win is important and it is always important to beat every team,” Prokopiev said. “But playing against a German team was a lot more difficult because they were playing at home.
“Today we played well and everything went well, even though it was a little difficult because we only arrived last night. The target now is to win our pool to go straight into a ninth place finish.”
Earlier in the day Prokopiev and Semenov beat Austria’s Daniel Hupfer and Michael Leeb in the first qualifying round, 21-13, 21-17.
Berlin is the first tournament that they have played together since the 2011 Prague Open and they teamed up together to good effect. Prokopiev took charge of the defence and Semenov was dominant at the net.
“He worked very hard and played very well,” Prokopiev said. “He showed why he is one of the best blockers and made it enjoyable to play with him.”
Also into the main draw are Canada’s Ben Saxton and Christian Redmann. They were pushed hard in both their matches, but dug in to win two out of two qualifying matches.
First off they beat Alexey Yutvalin and Alexander Likholetov of Russia 21-23, 21-14, 15-12, then followed up to defeat Austria’s Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl 21-17, 20-22, 15-13.
“It is our fourth one (main draw place) this year I think,” Saxton said. “It was great, but we had to fight hard today with two matches that went to three sets.
“We want to get a top 10 because that would be our best result. It would have better to have had two set matches because then you save your energy. If we do what we want to do, we’ll be playing five days in a row.”
Other teams to reach the main draw include the fourth place side from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Rentao ‘Geor’ Gomes and Jorge ‘Gia’ Terceiro of Georgia, USA pair Bradley Keenan and John Mayer and Ukraine’s Valeriy Samoday and Sergiy Popov.
The smart Grand Slam Berlin is the seventh of nine mixed gender tournaments on the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour and the ninth men’s tournament of the year. The men’s final is scheduled to take place on Saturday July 14 and the winning side will leave with the largest share from a purse of $300,000 per gender.
The Berlin tournament is the penultimate before the London 2012 Olympic Games in which 24 men’s and women’s teams will play for gold at London’s Horse Guard’s Parade.
The men’s calendar is set to culminate with the Mazurly Orlen Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki, Poland from August 14-19.