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Latvian duo reaping the fruits of hard work by reaching main draw in Rome

Toms Smedins and his partner Ruslans Sorokins can look forward to a place in the men's main draw in rome

Rome, Italy, June 18, 2013 – Latvia’s Toms Smedins and Ruslans Sorokins showed the benefit of hard work by reaching the main draw of the smart Grand Slam - Rome with a 2-1 (21-19, 18-21, 18-16) win over Greece’s Nikos Zoupanis and Georgios Kotsilianos.

Latvia is currently going through a boom in beach volleyball; Smedins’ brother Janis won bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Martins Plavins and a week later claimed their first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour gold at the Stare Jablonki Grand Slam. This season he has been paired with Aleksandrs Samoilovs and the pair already have gold and silver medals to their names this season.

There is no rivalry between Toms Smedins and his younger brother of two years, but they do push each other hard in training, something which is beginning to show in Smedins and Sorokins performances on the court.

“Our level is improving as we practising with my brother and Sasha (Samoilovs) all the time,” Smedins said. “We worked really hard before the season; we went to Egypt and put in a lot of work running, jumping and three practices per day, so 15 per week. It was the first time in my life that I practiced so hard, but now we are collecting the fruits.”

The match with the Greek pair appeared to be going their way after a close first set, but with a place in the main draw and vital ranking points on the line, Zoupanis and Kotsilianos came anew in the second set to force a tie-break. Even then both sides refused to lie down and only the Latvians greater experience pulled them through.

“Our opponents played well, but we played fantastically at times, but couldn’t sustain it,” Smedins said. “We were leading the tie-break 6-1, then all of a sudden we were losing it 12-10, but it was good that we could come back into the game.

“I had some really good digs and won us some points, while my partner served well at the end and the last ball he jumped so high and forced our opponents to hit out.”

Also into the main draw are Spain’s Francisco Alfredo Marco, who fought back from losing the opening set to Brazilian youngsters Vitor Felipe Evandro Goncalves to win 2-1 (11-21, 21-17, 15-11).

Earlier in the day they beat Canada’s Hatch and Redmann 2-1 (21-18, 17-21, 15-12) and their performance in qualification means that it is the second main draw that they have reached this season after making it through qualification at The Hague Grand Slam last week.

“It was a very tough match,” Marco said. “Both matches went to a tie-break, but I have more confidence from this match as there were four players who know each other well.

“For me and my partner tomorrow is very important as it means more points.”

The Rome Grand Slam is the fourth Grand Slam of 10 on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The competition runs from June 17 until June 23, when both the men’s and women’s finals take place.

Following the Rome Grand Slam, the world’s leading players take a week’s break before the start of the ninth FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki from July 1-7. After the World Championships are completed the World Tour resumes the following week at the Gstaad Grand Slam in the Swiss Alps.

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