Gstaad, Switzerland, July 7, 2016 - Beach volleyball is a family sport and Dunja Gerson knows that.
As the up-and-coming player from Switzerland, the 20-year old Gerson made her debut in a SWATCH Major Series Main Draw Wednesday in her “home tournament” in this Swiss Alps village where the FIVB World Tour returns for the 17th-straight season.
For Gerson, playing in the $800,000 Gstaad Major is “Special. I have always come to Gstaad to watch the games. It’s our family tradition. And now I am standing here and can challenge the best women’s teams in the world. To be honest, the first game on the Centre Court was one of the most beautiful moments in my entire life. I can’t even find the words to describe it.”
And in this very special debut game, Gerson could count on her family. While her father (Marc) was watching from the stands, her 23-year old brother (Mirco) was cheering on his little sister from behind the scenes as he was preparing to play in his fifth FIVB World Tour event in Gstaad.
The apple didn't fall far from the tree in the Gerson family. While father Marc is a living volleyball legend in Switzerland and coaches the Swiss national teams, Mirco has made himself a name as a Swiss national player on the FIVB World Tour. Her mother (Cornelia) played in the first three FIVB Gstaad events (2000-2002) along with four other world tour events (1996-2002).
Unsurprisingly, Dunja Gerson admits that her passion for volleyball comes from her family. “Mirco and I went to a lot of tournaments and games with our parents back then when we were kids. My family lives volleyball and therefore we wanted to follow in the footsteps of our parents.”
So the FIVB World Tour feels like home to her: “I enjoy playing at the tournaments, not only because I love beach volleyball, but also because I can hang around with my brother. Of course, both of us have a different schedule and therefore just sometimes can watch the other play or train, but in the evening we sit together and chat. I mean, I see him more now than before as I am now also playing at some international tournaments.”
On the other hand, Dunja Gerson has no problem to play under the watchful eyes of her father: “I never think about what my father would say or do during a game. Of course, sometimes after the games, my father and I, we talk about the plays and what to improve, but I don’t think that his reputation and knowledge puts pressure on me.”
In the pool games so far, Dunja has lived up to her family name. Nonetheless, one matchup was a very special one for the Swiss youngster - the game versus Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross. “Kerri is just an idol for all of us young players. When I started to play beach volleyball, I said to myself that I would like to play Kerri one day. And now I eventually had the opportunity to face her. It’s such an honour. I am just speechless.”
And now Gerson and her teammate Nicole Eiholzer are seeking to make their first-ever elimination stage in the SWATCH Major Series. The Swiss youngsters, however, desperately needed a victory if they wanted to keep their dream of the next round alive, but lost to Rio Olympic-bound Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat of the United States.
Despite losing three times this week in the Gstaad Major, including and opening setback Wednesday to London 2012 Olympians Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany, Dunja Gerson certainly can count on the support of her family and look forward to playing in future FIVB World Tour events.