Hamburg, Germany, June 11, 2016 - After four hectic days of Beach Volleyball at Am Rothenbaum stadium with 169 matches spread over five courts where more than 1,900 tons of sand were imported into the venerable tennis facility, it is now “showdown” Saturday for 11 remaining teams in the competition.
For those who are asking about the odd number of teams remaining in the US$800,000 smart Major Hamburg with only seven games scheduled Saturday, it is due to the forfeiture of a men’s quarter-final match by Germany’s Marcus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen. One might believe it is due to Fluggen’s knee that resulted in an April surgery. Not this time as Bockermann was forced to withdraw from his team’s quarter-final match Saturday with a Russian pair.
According to federation officials from Germany, the withdrawal is more a precautionary move as the 16th-seeded Bockermann and Fluggen won two matches Friday to advance to Saturday’s first quarter-final where they were scheduled to play 16th-seeded Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia in the first-ever FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams.
Hitting against Brazil Friday is Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia (blue top)
Bockermann and Fluggen opened plays Friday with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-18 victory in 48-minutes over compatriots Jonathan Erdmann and Kay Matysik followed by a 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) win in 42 minutes over 18th-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland.
The first win secured a spot for Germany in the men’s Beach Volleyball competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but for the host country, it cost the European nation a possible second berth in the Copacabana quadrennial as the match eliminated Erdmann and Matysik from the smart Major Hamburg competition without improving their qualifying point total for the Summer Games.
For Fluggen, Friday’s first match was “really emotional. I can't describe it. Tears are coming. Two years of hard work and now we finally did it." When asked if it was a “bitter sweet” win, Fluggen said “yeah, because of Kay and Jonathan. I mean, they deserved it too. I think. I will cheer for them. I hope that Mexico will lose. Otherwise, Mexico did a great job as well. So it could be unfortunate for Kay and Jonathan.”
Germans Lars Fluggen (left) and Marcus Bockermann
With Erdmann and Matysik on the sidelines, the 15th-seeded Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros used a pair of wins Friday over pairs from Brazil and Latvia to help the Mexicans move past the Germans into the 15th and final spot available from the FIVB World Tour for the Rio Games excluding Brazilians and with a maximum of two teams per country.
With their country now having Beach Volleyball and Volleyball teams competing in the same Olympics for the first-time, Virgen and Ontiveros face a bigger task Saturday against top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil in the men’s quarter-finals.
With Semenov and Krasilnikov guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals Sunday, Saturday’s other quarter-final matches will feature an All-American tussle between third-seeded Nick Lucena/Phil Dalhausser and sixth-seeded Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. The FIVB World Tour series between the two teams is tied 1-1. The other quarter-final match will have fourth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands meeting ninth-seeded Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira of Spain. It is the 12th FIVB match between the two teams with the Spaniards leading 7-4
Nick Lucena (right) hits against American rival Jake Gibb at last October's Puerto Vallarta Open
Sandwiched between the three men’s quarter-finals contests will be the women’s semi-finals where the top four-seeded teams in the smart Major Hamburg will be playing. It marks the first time the women’s top four seeds have made the semi-finals since Rio Open in September 2015. With the smart Major Hamburg being the 306th-sanctioned women’s event in FIVB World Tour history since 1992, the occurrence has happened 25 times, including the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2007 FIVB World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland.
The first semi-final Saturday at the smart Major Hamburg will be an All-Brazilian affair featuring the top two-ranked teams on the Rio provisional ranking list Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas. “Final Four” match No. 2 will have host country favorites Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst meeting American Olympic medalist April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Kira Walkenhorst (left) and Laura Ludwig of Germany
In reaching the Saturday’s “final four” after placing 17th in their last FIVB World Tour start in Moscow, Barbara said after her team’s quarter-final match with Australia that the four-straight wins this week was “really important for us in building our confidence, for our game rhythm. This was good for us, especially after our disappointment in our last event. So we are really happy and we worked hard for it."
Brazilian world champion Barbara Seixas
After winning three elimination matches after finishing second in their pool, Walsh Jennings said “we're pumped. Someone said there would be a daunting task ahead of us this morning. And I was like what? We're professionals, are you kidding me? We love this. It's our job to play games and to win games. But we are happy. Tomorrow is a huge day."
Ross added “we train hard. Marcio kicks our butt every day in practice. It doesn't matter how you feel. Semis and finals. Let's go!"
Kerri Walsh Jennings (center) and April Ross of the United States
With the men’s “final four” matches Sunday, the gold medal teams will each share the $57,000 first-place prize for the third of nine “big” events on 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar. In addition the Hamburg event, 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). The final two events will be staged in Poland (Olsztyn, June 14-19) and the United States (Long Beach, August 23-28).