Late birthday present for Russia’s Serguei Prokopiev
“I am very happy for me and my partner, especially for Gregoriy, since this is his first experience in a Grand Slam”, 27-year old Prokopiev said. “I tried to help him prepare for the start of the tournament, for this big moment in his career.”
While 23-year old Goncharov made his World Tour debut, Prokopiev is the more experienced player, competing on the Tour since 2005. He even played at the Olympics in London last year with Konstantin Semenov, finishing 9th.
The two players found each other just a few weeks ago when Prokopiev stopped playing with his initial partner this year, Yuri Bogatov, and Goncharov’s partner returned to indoor. They are not part of the Russian federation but are supported by their beach club.
Big support from home crowd
After losing the first set, Goncharov and Prokopiev, supported by a rowdy home crowd, came back strong in the second. In the tiebreak the Russians were leading till 13-13, took a time-out at the right moment and finished the job without hesitation.
“In the beginning the points went to Brazil, but I was very calm and confident about our game”, Prokopiev said.
His inexperienced partner kept his nerves as well, even at 13-13. “I just thought, don’t worry, just continue playing and hit each ball harder and harder”, Goncharov said. “I was nervous during the whole game, but that’s normal in beach volleyball. But with adrenaline you play well.”
Defeating the vice-world champions
But even so, it was all a bit unexpected to beat the vice-world and Gstaad champions. “This was my first experience on the World Tour. It’s fantastic. We tried our best and maybe god helped us or something else, and my partner played a really good game. He is an Olympian, he is experienced and helped me a lot. I think we showed a good game.”
About their expectations on home soil Prokopiev said: “This is only our first tournament, we started just a few weeks ago with an event in Riga and we won it. I hope to continue playing like this and to show our best here at home.”