Italy’s Nicolai and Lupo grab first FIVB World Tour title
Fuzhou, China, April 26, 2014 - Italy's Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo claimed their first ever FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event title when they beat Olympic silver medalist Alison Cerutti and new partner Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil 2-1 (21-17, 16-21, 15-13) in the final of the Fuzhou Open in China on Saturday.
Nicolai and Lupo, whose previous best World Tour result was the runner-up at the Beijing Grand Slam in 2012 and the Fuzhou Open in 2013, secured the gold after surviving an evenly balanced encounter against Alison and Bruno in rainy conditions.
The first set was a see-saw affair until 13-13. The Italian tandem nosed ahead following a string of excellent spikes and then took the initative on their first set point.
It was a similar situation at the start of the second set but Alison and Bruno took control after 5-5 before drawing level 1-1 in sets.
Brazil jumped to a 3-1 lead in the deciding set before Nicolai and Lupo reeled off five points to go ahead 6-3. After the scores were tied at 8-8, the Italians managed to regain a tiny lead and kept it throughout.
"(We won) One silver and one gold here, Fuzhou is really a lucky place for us," Nicolai said after the final. "For sure, next year we will come back."
Nicolai and Lupo will move to Shanghai next week for the first Grand Slam event on this season's FIVB World Tour.
"We are out to win every match, but I know it will be very difficult," said Nicolai, who was named the FIVB Most Improved Player in 2012.
"We are very focused on the Shanghai Grand Slam. No doubt today's victory is a huge boost to our confidence. I hope we can continue our good play," said Lupo.
In the morning, Nicolai and Lupo made light work of the semifinal against Jon Stiekema and Christiaan Varenhorst from the Netherlands, winning 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) in just 35 minutes.
Alison and Bruno's semifinal was against Latvia's Aleksandrs Smoilovs and Janis Smedins. After dropping the first set by a large margin, the Brazilian new pair upped their game in the second set and fought hard to book their spot in the final 2-1 (13-21, 23-21, 15-7).
"They (Smoilovs/Smedins) won the World Tour title last year, and they deserve all the credit for that. We knew the match gonna be very hard, so we're pretty happy for the victory," said Bruno.
Alison, who claimed silver at the London Olympics in 2012 with Emanuel Rego, and Bruno are the playing their first tournament together.
The bronze medal went to 12th seeds Stiekema and Varenhorst, who came from one set behind to defeat Smoilovs and Smedins 2-1 (17-21, 26-24, 16-14). It was Stiekema and Varenhorst's first podium finish in the FIVB World Tour series.
"We worked so hard and won the bronze, the first medal on the World Tour, so we'are really happy," said Stiekema.
The last day of the Fuzhou Open will decide the Women’s Main Draw medallists on Sunday.
Fuzhou, capital of the Fujian province lies on the southeast coast of Chinese mainland and hosts the Open event for the second straight year.
In addition to the Fuzhou Open, two other stops are scheduled in China in 2014 on the FIVB international schedule: the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam (April 29 to May 4) and the FIVB Xiamen Open (October 7 to 12). All three are double-gender events.