Porec, Croatia, July 3, 2016 - For Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst, today‘s date could mark a “first” for Austria Beach Volleyball.
But Austria’s most accomplished men’s Beach Volleyball team ever faces a daunting task of posting back-to-back wins here Sunday to win the European country’s first-ever gold medal in the 30-season history of the FIVB World Tour starting with a semi-final match against Canada in the US$800,000 Porec Major.
Seeded 15th in the Porec Major, Doppler and Horst challenge sixth-seeded Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk in Sunday’s first semi-final as the two teams will be meeting for the eighth-time on the FIVB World Tour with the Austria leading the series 4-3. Doppler and Horst have defeated the Canadians twice this season in FIVB Grand Slam events in Rio and Moscow.
An Austrian win over Saxton and Schalk would pit Doppler and Horst against pairs from either Brazil or Latvia as top-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt from the South American country meets fifth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins.
The Brazil vs. Latvia contest is a rematch of the last FIVB finale when Samoilovs and Smedins defeated Alison and Bruno two weeks ago to win the podium top spot in Olsztyn, Poland. Despite losing to Latvians in Poland, Alison and Bruno hold a 4-3 edge in the FIVB World Tour matches.
With Austrian teams 0-6 in FIVB World Tour gold medal matches, including being winless in four women’s finals, Doppler and Horst could be playing in their second international finale after losing 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) to Latvians Smedins and Martins Plavins in the August 2012 Poland Grand Slam gold medal contest in Stare Jablonki.
The only other Austrian men’s team to play in a FIVB World Tour final was Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl, who were defeated earlier this season in Qatar by Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula of Italy 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) in the 37-minute April 8 Doha gold medal match.
To advance to their fifth FIVB World Tour “final four” together in 40 international starts together since 2012, Doppler and Horst defeated 18th-seeded qualifiers Saymon Barbosa and Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes of Brazil 2-1 (18-21, 21-14, 20-18) in (0:51) in a quarter-final match in front of 5,000 fans on the packed Porec Major Center Court.
The Austrians lost the first set and then saved six match points against the Brazilians in a thrilling decider to set-up a semifinal with Saxton and Schalk, who upset smart Major Hamburg gold medal winners Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the United States 2-0 (25-23, 21-17) in a 39-minute quarter-final match on an outside court.
“No Dalhausser?” said a surprised, shocked and speechless 35-year old Doppler after their epic win. “We basically lost the game (with Saymon and Guto) six times! We didn’t give up and a win like this shows we’re a tough team to beat now. In the final set they kept coming back with serves and Alex kept digging in - he basically won the game himself.”
Horst was all smiles afterwards, too: “Of course I’m smiling”, said the 33-year old Horst. “We’ve reached the semifinal of a tournament of the biggest series in the world.”
The win over Saymon and Guto Saturday avenged a pool play setback Thursday to the 22-year old Brazilians as Doppler and Horst lost 2-1 (25-23, 19-21, 15-11) in 55 minutes. Saymon and Guto entered the Porec Major after placing third two weeks ago at the Olsztyn Grand Slam in Poland.
In the other quarter-finals Saturday afternoon, Samoilovs and Smedins ousted fourth-seeded Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson of the United States 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) in 38 minutes while Alison and Bruno eliminated 10th-seeded compatriots Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg 2-1 (19-21, 21-14, 15-9) in 49 minutes.