Poland Seeks First FIVB World Tour Gold Medal
The Hague, The Netherlands, July 19, 2014 - Since the start of sanctioned FIVB men’s Beach Volleyball events in 1987, Poland has had three opportunities to capture a world tour gold medal and the European country will have a fourth chance Sunday as Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel will be playing a team from the United States in the finale of the US$1-million Transavia Grand Slam presented by Bas Van de Goor Foundation.
As a “prelude” to the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, the final day of the Transavia Grand Slam will have the Poles playing top-seeded Americans Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal for the gold medal and the $70,000 first-place prize for the winning team. The women’s medal matches will be held earlier Sunday where Brazilians Fernanda Alves and Taiana Lima challenge Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany for the Transavia Grand Slam title.
Seeded sixth in the ninth men’s event on the 2014 FIVB World Tour calendar, Fijalek and Prudel advanced to their fourth gold medal match in their 60th international start together by out-lasting eighth-seeded Emanuel Rego and Pedro Salgado 2-0 (24-22 and 23-21) in a 47-minute semi-final match on The Hague Beach Stadium center court on Scheveningen beach.
In winning six-straight matches this week after placing 25th in each of their last two FIVB World Tour starts in Norway and Switzerland, Fijalek and Prudel have already bettered their previous placement on The Hague Beach Stadium courts as the Poles placed third in the 2013 international stop on Scheveningen beach.
"We love to play here in The Hague,” said the 28-year old Prudel. “There are a lot of Polish fans in the country. The support of those fans really helped us through difficult moments." For Fijalek, he was “pleased with our effort against a strong Brazilian team. We played very well. Our serve was consistent and it helped us to follow our plan of attack for this match. I can't tell you the tactic, but maybe we can use it in the final."
When Fijalek and Prudel fell behind Emanuel and Salgado in the second set, Prudel said his “two aces helped us to come back. The first one wasn't lucky. But the second one, I had some luck. If you serve the ball hard, sometimes the luck is with you. And at the end of the match, we didn't made the stupid mistakes and we played defensively very well."
After placing second last month in Russia where they won six of seven matches highlighted by a semi-final win over Dalhausser and Rogers, Fijalek and Prudel fell on “hard times” by winning only four of 12 confrontations in their next three tournaments, including a stretch where they won only once in seven matches.. However, the Poles have regained their winning ways this week and hope for a podium topper Sunday.
With air temperature at 41°c (106°f) with 20 percent humidity earlier in the afternoon, the final two matches were played in cooler conditions as the Americans match against third-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt was staged with the sun setting and darker conditions prevailing in the 51-minute match that Dalhausser and Rosenthal won 2-0 (21-17 and 32-30) of the Brazilians.
"It was a tough second set,” said the 34-year old Rosenthal, “and we stayed to the basics. Come in strong and serve well. Phil had some good blocks. It is a big win for us." When asked about his winning serve, Rosenthal said he “played the ball really short. I was shocked the Brazilians didn't react. I'm happy they didn't."
Dalhausser said the Americans will be “ready to play Sunday. This what we trained for in the off-season. We're in shape for the season. We also want to take revenge for tour loss to the Polish team in the semifinals in Moscow. They're a good team, but we want to beat them.”
With two wins Saturday, Dalhausser and Rosenthal extended their current winning streak to 20-straight FIVB matches as the Americans have captured the last two world tour gold medals in Norway and Switzerland. One of the wins was for the title last week in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad where Dalhausser and Rosenthal won 2-0 in the finale.
Sunday’s men’s finale will be the third meeting between the two championship contenders. Fijalek and Prudel won the last match last month in Moscow where the Poles defeated the Americans 2-0 in the semi-finals. In a 2013 meeting in China, Dalhausser and Rosenthal posted a two-set win over Fijalek and Prudel.
Dalhausser will be meeting Fijalek and Prudel for the second time in a gold medal match as the slender American teamed with Todd Rogers in July 2011 to defeat the Poles 2-1 (21-15,15-21 and 15-13) in a 53-minute match in Stare Jablonki, Poland.
Following this week’s event, the FIVB World Tour returns to the United States for the second-straight year as Long Beach in southern California hosts another $1-million event. The international circuit returns to Europe in August for stops in Austria (Klagenfurt, July 29-August 3) and Poland (Stare Jablonki, August 19-24).
Semi-final Match Quotes
Grzegorz Fijalek, Poland - "We played very well. Our serve was consistent and we held to tactic. I can't tell you the tactic, but maybe we can use it in the final.
Mariusz Prudel, Poland - "We love to play here in The Hague. There are a lot of Polish fans in the public. They support us at difficult moments. I made two ace in our come back in the second set. The first one wasn't lucky. But the second one, I had some luck. But if you serve the ball hard, the luck is sometimes with you. And in the end we didn't made the stupid mistakes and we played defensively very well."
Emanuel Rego, Brazil - "I think they really played better than us. We couldn't make a difference. We were ahead in the second set, we played really well. But it's the toughest game when you play your best and it doesn't turn out. "Every match is a different story, because we're just playing together. This is our first year together, and the first year is always hard. We need to prove ourselves against other teams. The Polish team has played seven years together, that makes a big difference in the rally points. But we're satisfied with how things are going with the team. We just have to evolve faster to be ready. The Polish guys did a great job. Because we're a new team we have a lot of games that end in 2-1, and we have a lot of third sets. That makes us a little bit tired for the final matches. But that’s part of the game. We need to be ready for the moment. We need to give more pressure in the first game, so we'll have better stamina in the end so we can win easier."
Sean Rosenthal, United States - "It was a tough second set. But we stayed to the basics. Come in strong and serve well. Phil had some good blocks. It is a big win for us. I played the ball really short on the last serve of the match. I was shocked the Brazilians didn't react. But I'm happy they didn't."
Phil Dalhausser, United States - “This what we trained for in the off-season. We're in shape for the season. We want to take revenge for the loss to the Poles in the semifinal in Moscow. They're a good team, but we want to beat them.”
Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Brazil – “What can I say. I hope we can do it different tomorrow. "We missed some easy chances in the end of the second set, and it was made more difficult because the points we're not given very easy. We really need to play better next. "It's our job. We're really upset today, but tomorrow is another day."