Italian pair keep up strong start to 2014 in Moscow
They will now face Russia’s Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov at 14.00 on Sunday (local time), while the USA’s Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser will take on Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel an hour later.
The Italian duo won three matches in the one day, culminating in a thrilling 2-1 (21-19, 16-21, 15-11) victory over Brazilian pair Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt.
“We are two very, very, similar teams, with a good blocker and a very good defender each,” Nicolai said.
“Alison is among the best blockers in the world and certainly the best at putting pressure on his opponents. You have to change you style and try and find different ways to get past him because he is huge, so of course we are very happy we’ve won.”
Having finally won their first World Tour gold medal at the season opening Fuzhou Open in China, they then added their first Grand Slam gold a week later in Shanghai.
For good measure they then added the CEV European Championships gold before flying into Moscow.
“It is going pretty well so far,” Nicolai added. “When you win you can play your next match with a degree of confidence, of knowing what to do at certain difficult moments during the match.
“We are both, but especially Daniele, pretty young. We are developing and trying to get better every day.”
Rosenthal and Dalhausser getting back to their best
Rosenthal and Dalhausser meanwhile set up a clash against Fijalek and Prudel with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) defeat of Brazil’s Vitor Felipe and Evandro Goncalves.
“It was a good match for Phil and I,” Rosenthal said. “We have never played that team, but they are a very good team and young.
“Phil and I played well earlier today against the other USA team (Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson) and also in that match, so it is nice to get back to the semifinals when we are playing good ball.”
The American’s last World Tour podium finish came when they won gold at the 2013 Long Beach Grand Slam, one of three World Tour gold medals that they won in their first season together.
Their advancement to the semifinal is already an improvement on their two other World Tour performances so far in 2014; a ninth place finish at the Fuzhou Open and quarterfinal finish at the Shanghai Grand Slam.
“He is easy to get along with and easy to play with,” Rosenthal said of Dalhausser. “He is one of the best players out there and we are getting better and better.
“Last year was our first year and this year we have switched sides and it is like we are starting again. We are going to get better and better and we will try to keep it going in this tournament.”
The double-gender US$800,000 FIVB Moscow Grand Slam runs from Wednesday, June 11 through to Sunday June 15. It is the sixth event and the second Grand Slam on the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar that features nine Grand Slams and 11 Open tournaments.
The 2014 World Tour began at the Fuzhou Open in China in April and concludes at the Durban Open in South Africa in December. Next up on the World Tour calendar is the Berlin Grand Slam which runs from June 17-22.