Moscow, Russia, May 27, 2016 - Paolo Nicolai “idolizes” Phil Dalhausser, but the Italian and his partner Daniel Lupo had the upper hand over the American Olympian here Friday in a mid-day match at the US$800,000 Moscow Grand Slam where second team from the southern European country advanced to the second-round elimination play.
Seeded 13th in the FIVB World Tour event being played at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre, Nicolai and Lupo posted a 2-0 (22-20, 23-21) win in 39 minutes over the third-seeded Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. With the win, the Italians play 10th-seeded Chaim Schalk / Ben Saxton of Canada in the next round of elimination with the winner advancing to the Moscow Grand Slam quarter-finals.
“We closed both sets with an ace serve,” said the 27-year old Nicolai, who placed fifth with Lupo at the London 2012 Olympic Games and are scheduled to compete this August in the Rio Summer Games. “Daniele had some great jump float serves and I tried to serve with more power. We played a great team, it was very close and today the serve made the difference.”
When asked about defeating the Americans after losing to Dalhausser and Lucena over a month ago in the gold medal match at the Fuzhou Open in China April 23, Nicolai said “we are friends with Nick and Phil. Phil is my idol. I am always so happy to play against him, especially when we win.”
Despite placing 17th in the Moscow Grand Slam for their worst FIVB World Tour finish together since reforming their partner last August to make a run for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Dalhausser and Lucena satisfied the requirement of playing in at least 12 international events together to qualify for the Copacabana quadrennial. The Americans now have compiled 5,720 points for the Rio Summer Games to rank fourth on the provisional qualifying list.
Also posting an opening elimination win for Italy Friday was 14th-seeded Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula, who scored a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-13) win in 51 minutes over 16th-seeded Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter of Canada. Ranghieri and Carambula had dropped a 2-1 (21-13, 18-21, 15-9) pool play decision in 41 minutes to Dalhausser and Lucena Thursday.
Alex Ranghieri of Italy blocks against Canadian Josh Binstock Friday at Moscow Grand Slam
Other winners during the first-round of elimination were second-seeded Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson of the United States, fifth-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands, 11th-seeded Tri Bourne/John Hyden of the United States, 12th-seeded Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira of Spain, 17th-seeded Bartosz Losiak/Piotr Kantor of Poland and 23rd-seeded qualifiers Isaac Kapa/Christopher McHugh of Australia.
Friday’s schedule for both genders features the Rounds of 24 and 16 contests to set the lineup for Saturday’s morning quarter-final matches that will produce the lineup for the afternoon’s semi-finals. The medal matches for the Moscow Grand Slam will be played Sunday afternoon with the gold medal teams sharing the $57,000 first-places prizes.