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Dalhausser and Lucena prevail in lull before the storm

American Phil Dalhausser (white top, No. 2) blocks at the net against Jefferson Pereira (second from left) of Qatar as partners Cherif Younousse (right) and Nick Lucena follow the action.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 9, 2016 - The first day of the men’s Main Draw competition here Wednesday at the $800,000 Rio Grand Slam was the “lull before the storm” as women’s pool play was the featured attraction on iconic Copacabana.

While the women played 32 matches on “hot and steamy” Copacabana on the same site where the beach volleyball completion at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be staged, there were 16 contested pool play matches for men featuring teams from 17 countries.

Quick links
•    Rio Grand Slam website
•    Country quota results - Men
•    Country quota results - Women
•    Qualification - Men
•    Qualification - Women

•    Main draw - Men
•    Main draw - Women

With host Brazil having four tandems in the sixth men’s event on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, winners from the first five “open” events were present on Copacabana Wednesday with one of the featured matches pitting two-time winners Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States against Jefferson Santos Pereira/Cherif Younousse, Qatar’s first-ever gold medal team on the international circuit.

The sixth-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena prevailed 2-1 (17-21, 21-12, 15-7) in a 43-minute Pool F match against Jefferson and Cherif, who topped the FIVB World Tour podium three weeks ago on Kish Island in Iran. Dalhausser and Lucena won the season’s opening event in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) at the start of October and finished first two weeks ago at the Brazilian Open in Maceio.

Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri of Italy and Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen of Germany netted 2015-2016 gold medals in Turkey (Antalya) and Qatar (Doha), respectively, won their matches Wednesday. The Germans also captured the silver medal at last September’s Olympic “test” event on Copacabana.

The 14th-seeded Carambula and Ranghieri defeated 19th-seeded Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter of Canada 2-0 (21-13, 21-15) in a 34-minute Pool C match while 13th-seeded Bockermann and Fluggen downed the 20th-seeded Ingrosso twins (Matteo and Paolo) of Italy 2-0 (22-20, 21-15) in a 41-minute Pool D match.

Ball battle between Russia's Artem Yarzutkin (black) and Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs.

Seventh-seeded Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, who defeated  Bockermann and Fluggen for the Rio Open gold medal, posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) Pool G win over 26th-seeded qualifiers Oleg Stoyanovskiy/Artem Yarzutkin of Russia in 31 minutes.

One of the men’s biggest surprises Wednesday was posted by 29th-seeded qualifiers Nico Beeler and Alexei Strasser of Switzerland. After winning a pair of qualifying matches Tuesday, the young Swiss tandem defeated fourth-seeded Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg of Brazil 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) in a 40-minute Pool D match.

“We played very poorly,” said a dejected Pedro after the match.  “In some respects, it was not a surprise,” said Swiss coach Markus Egger. “Nico and Alexei defeated Pedro and Evandro last August in the Polish Grand Slam in Olsztyn. Our guys made very few mistakes. When you play like that against a good team, you have the opportunity to win.”

The men will play 32 Rio Grand Slam matches Thursday as the top three finishers in the eight four-team pools will advance to Friday’s two rounds of elimination play.  The men’s and women’s quarter- and semi-finals will be played Saturday on the seaside courts with the medal matches scheduled for Sunday morning.

Playing in his 255th and final FIVB World Tour event, the legendary Emanuel Rego and his two-time Olympic medal winning partner Ricardo Santos dropped their opening match Wednesday to 15h-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland 2-1 (21-14, 19-21, 15-12) in a 57-minute Pool B match.

Emanuel Rego
Emanuel Rego in action at the net.

Emanuel, who has now played in a record 1,546 matches since joining the FIVB World Tour in 1994, and Ricardo play two pool play contests Thursday.  The 18th-seeded Brazilians against second-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands and 31st-seeded qualifiers Dmitri Barsouk/Nikita Liamin of Russia.

“I am disappointed that we did not win the match,” said Emanuel, who will celebrate his 43rd birthday next month.  “We played a very good Polish pair and we were very competitive to the end.  I am glad that my final event on the world tour is here in Rio before a lot of family, friends and fans.”

Top-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, the reigning FIVB world champions, won as expected Wednesday by defeating 32nd-seeded qualifiers Jeremy Casebeer/Derek Olson of United States 2-0 (21-11, 21-13) in a 36-minute Pool A match.  Vitor Felipe and Alvaro Filho, who are seeded 21st for Brazil, upset 12th-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) in a 40-minute Pool E match.


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