Can Sunday be as “Sandsational” as Saturday in Hamburg?

Hamburg, Germany, June 12, 2016 - Can the men’s Beach Volleyball teams from Brazil, The Netherlands, Russia and the United States produce the same kind of excitement here Sunday at the US$800,000 smart Major Hamburg after a “eye-opening final four” women matches Saturday where a German women’s team won its first-ever gold medal on home sand at a FIVB World Tour event?

With more than 8,000 fans watching the women’s finale, the men’s schedule Saturday featured three quarter-final matches as the pairs of top-seeded and reigning world champions Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, third-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States and fourth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands posted wins on the Am Rothenbaum stadium center court.

While the Americans, Brazilians and the Dutch were playing, 16th-seeded Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia had Saturday off due to a forfeit by the 16th-seeded German team of Marcus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen.  After winning two elimination matches Friday over teams from Germany and Poland, Bockermann’s right knee turned up lame forcing him to withdraw as a precautionary move.

Sunday’s mid-day men’s semi-final will feature Semenov and Krasilnikov against Brouwer and Meeuwsen, who have a history of winning “major” events, followed by an Am Rothenbaum stadium center court confrontation between Alison/Bruno and Dalhausser and Lucena.  In the late afternoon, the two winning pairs will compete for the gold medal and the $57,000 first-place prize.

Three of the four teams playing Sunday are ranked among the top four on the provisional ranking list for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with Semenov and Krasilnikov No. 11 overall with 5,150 points for their best 12 finishes since the start of the qualifying process in April 2015.

Alison/Bruno top the list with 7,740 points for their best 12 placements with Brouwer/Meeuwsen 1,430 points behind with 6,310 points.  Dalhausser/Lucena are ranked No. 4 overall with 6,040 points and trail No. 3 Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Salgado of Brazil (6,250 points) by 160 points as the smart Major Hamburg is the 30th and final men’s FIVB World Tour qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

In looking ahead to the gold medal match, Brazil and the Netherlands have met previously 11 times in a FIVB World Tour 
Finale with the South Americans winning six times.  Two of the meetings were at FIVB World Championships, including a Brouwer/Meeuwsen victory in 2013 in Poland and an Alison/Bruno win in 2015 at The Hague.
Bruno (No. 2 yellow top) with Alison after defeating Juan Virgen (left) and Lombardo Ontiveros (second from the left) of Mexico Saturday

The last FIVB World Tour event featuring a Brazilian-Dutch finale was when Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst out-lasted Alison and Bruno in a three-set thriller in Moscow two weeks ago at the Russian Grand Slam in Moscow.  Nearly 11 months early, Alison and Bruno survived a three-setter with Nummerdor and Varenhorst to win their FIVB world championship gold medal.

Brazil is 2-0 against Russians in FIVB men’s finales with Semenov and Krasilnikov playing in the last gold medal meeting between the two countries with a three-set setback at the Berlin 2013 stop to Evandro and Vitor Felipe.  The Berlin tournament was the first-ever international event for the Semenov/Krasilnikov partnership as the Russians defeated Brouwer/Meeuwsen in the quarter-finals.

There have been three American-Dutch gold medal matches since the start of FIVB-sanctioned men’s events in 1987 with the United States leading 3-0 after Dalhausser/Lucena posted a two-set win last October in Mexico over Brouwer/Meeuwsen at Puerto Vallarta.  Russia and the United States have met twice for gold medals including Dalhausser and Todd Rogers’ win over Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinsky at the 2007 FIVB World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland.

After staging nine FIVB World Tour women’s (2000, 2003-2005, 2007-2008 and 2012-2014) Berlin without winning a gold medal with only a second- (2013) and third-places (2014) to show for it, the European country finally had its first women’s title on German sand when Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst topped the at the Am Rothenbaum stadium podium Saturday after defeating highly-regards pairs from the United States and Brazil.

After defeating April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States 2-1 (21-16, 19-21, 16-14) in a 59-minute semi-final match for their first-ever win in six FIVB World Tour matches with the Americans, Ludwig and Walkenhorst posted a 2-1 (21-19, 19-21, 15-12) gold medal win in 55 minutes over Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas of Brazil.

With the smart Major Hamburg being the 306th FIVB World Tour event for women, Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s win marked only that 36th-time that a host country team won a gold medal on “home” sand.  With Saturday’s finale being the 48th-time that the host country pair faced foreign opposition, the German win was the 25th for the entertaining country.
Germans Kira Walkenhorst (left) and Laura Ludwig being introduced before receiving their gold medals Saturday.

The smart Major Hamburg is the third of nine “big” events on 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar.  Other SWATCH Major Series events will be held in Croatia (Porec, June 29-July 3), Switzerland (Gstaad, July 6-10) and Austria (Klagenfurt, July 27-31).  The SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals will be held September 13-18 at a site to be determined.

Two of the four FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops have been completed in Rio de Janeiro (March 8-13 on iconic Copacabana) and Moscow (May 24-29).  Poland hosts the next international stop this coming week in Olsztyn with the final FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event being in the United States at Long Beach August 23-28.


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