Antalya, Turkey, May 14, 2016 - After missing four FIVB World Tour events along with losing a pool play matches Thursday and Friday, Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen of Germany rebounded in “fine fashion” here Saturday with three elimination wins over pairs Australia, the United States and The Netherlands in the US$150,000 Antalya Open.
Seeded ninth in the competition, Bockermann and Fluggen will join fourth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia, sixth-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland and 25th-seeded qualifiers Georgios Kotsilianos/Nikos Zoupanis of Greece in the Antalya Open “final four” to be played Sunday at BeachPark next to the Mediterranean Sea shoreline in this Turkish resort city.
The other three-semi-finalists had to win only two matches each Saturday as each had won their pools Friday with 3-0 record. Bockermann and Fluggen won only one of three group matches, including a 2-1 (22-20, 21-18, 15-11) decision in 52 minutes to Kotsilianos and Zoupanis.
Bockermann and Fluggen will get an opportunity to avenge the setback to the Greeks in Sunday’s first semi-final match as the pool match was the only international meeting between the two teams. Samoilovs and Smedins has won three of the four FIVB matches with Fijalek and Prudel, who won the last match between the two teams at the Olsztyn Grand Slam in Poland last August. The men’s medal matches will be played late Sunday afternoon with the winning team sharing the $11,000 first-place prize.
The Germans opened play Saturday with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) win in 37 minutes over 12th-seeded Isaac Kapa/Christopher McHugh of Australia before eliminating third-seeded John Hyden/Tri Bourne of the United States 2-1 (21-19, 16-21, 15-11) in 50 minutes. Bockermann and Fluggen ended their day with ousting top-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands 2-0 (21-16, 21-19) in a 34-minute quarter-final match.
With Fluggen injuring a knee at the start of April in a semi-final match with Bockermann at the Qatar Open in Doha, the pair missed FIVB World Tour events in China (Xiamen and Fuzhou), Brazil (Fortaleza) and last week in Russia (Sochi) before resuming competition together Thursday when they defeated a team from Norway in their opening pool match.
In other quarter-final matches Saturday after the women’s medal ceremony, Kotsilianos and Zoupanis defeated seventh-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik of Germany 2-0 (22-20, 24-22) in 42 minutes while Samoilovs and Smedins bested 26th-seeded qualifiers Michal Bryl/Kacper Kujawiak of Poland 2-1 (21-15, 23-25, 15-9) in 47 minutes. In the Saturday’s last match, Fijalek and Prudel ousted second-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands 2-0 (22-20, 21-17) in 42 minutes.
Bockermann and Fluggen’s performance Saturday was also important as they compete with compatriots Erdmann and Matysik for one of the 15 spots from the FIVB World Tour for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Entering play Saturday, Bockermann and Fluggen were No. 15 on the list with 4,400 points while Erdmann/Matysik were No. 16 with 4,350 point for the best 12 international finishes during the Copacabana qualifying period.
By advancing to the semi-finals Bockermann and Fluggen added 110 points to their total to move into the No. 14 spot with 4,510 points with Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen of Mexico dropping a spot to No. 15 with 4,430 points. Erdmann and Matysik are still No. 16, but added 60 points to their Rio ranking (4,410) to trail the Mexicans by 20 points.
A semi-final win will net Bockermann and Fluggen another 100 points with a gold medal finishing adding 50 more points to their total to push them 10 points closer to No. 13 Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov of Russia (4,670 points). A semi-final setback and bronze medal win will be worth 50 additional Rio points for the German pair.
All three teams will be competing in the next international stop in the United States starting Tuesday in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Moscow Grand Slam in Russia (May 24-29) and the Hamburg Major (June 7-12) are the last two FIVB events on the qualifying schedule. Both German teams can also add to their Olympic qualifying total when they compete in the European Championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
WOMEN MEDAL MATCHES
In the women’s gold medal match Saturday, Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst ended the historical journey for Taru Lahti and Riikka Lehtonen of Finland as the German pair captured their second FIVB World Tour gold medal this season and their fourth overall since forming their partnership in 2013.
Seeded first in the 10th women’s event on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, Ludwig and Walkenhorst posted a 2-0 (23-21, 21-16) gold medal win in 39 minutes over the 15th-seeded Lahti and Lehtonen to capture the $11,000 first-place prize. In the first event on the 2015-2016 international calendar last October in Mexico, Ludwig and Walkenhorst topped the podium in Puerto Vallarta.
Lahti and Lehtonen’s silver medal finish also marked the first-ever podium placement by a women’s or men’s Finnish team since the start of internationally-sanctioned Beach Volleyball events by the FIVB in 1987 for men and 1992 for women. In winning six of eight matches this week, Lahti and Lehtonen split the $8,000 second-place prize.
In the bronze medal match, Holtwick and Semmler posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) win in 34 minutes over Gallay and Klug to share the $6,000 prize. The Argentineans, who split $4,500 for fourth-place, had won the previous two matches with Holtwick and Semmler, including a meeting last month in Xiamen, China.