World champions fight hard to win centre court debut
2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship Final presented by checkrobin.com
Klagenfurt, Austria, August 2, 2013. On Friday Dutchmen Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen, the sensational gold medal winners at this year’s World Championships in Stare Jablonki, finally enjoyed their debut in what the local people have nicknamed “Austria’s largest sandbox” as they finished their duties in pool K by playing Robert Kufa and Jan Hadrava of the Czech Republic.
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After losing on Thursday to Germany’s Lars Flüggen/Alexander Walkenhorst, the flying “Oranjes” definitely were the ones to watch out in the last round of the prelims and though they started out strong cashing the first set quite comfortably (21-17), they still had to fight for fifty minutes before bringing it home at the tie-break. Kufa and Hadrava, winners of this year’s CEV Satellite in Montpellier, got the status of local favourites for they were supported by the Austrian fans right from the first rally and they were close to cause a sensation as they seized the second set and were able to keep the score very close halfway through the tie-break (8:8). Brouwer and Meeuwsen eventually showed their class to cruise to a well-deserved victory to finish second in their pool for Walkenhorst and Flüggen had completed a clean sweep of their matches by besting Murat Giginoglu and Selcuk Sekerci of Turkey (21-14, 22-20).
How does it feel to play in one of the world’s most popular Beach Volleyball venues? “Well, you need some time to adjust to these conditions, because we are still not used to play before such a large crowd” Brouwer says. “This is a very special venue, with a village surrounding the stadium, lots of people going around, but we hope we’ll get the chance to play again here as our goal is to make it to the last stages of the tournament”. Brouwer was not that surprised by the fight the Czechs were able to put up: “We had played these guys twice before and it always went to the tie-break. Our head-to-heads stood at 1:1 going into this game, so we knew what to expect. Additionally, our opponents were cheered by the audience, so they looked extra motivated to play their best. We had to adjust our tactics but in the end it worked fine and we look forward to the next round”.
On Thursday Norway’s Iver Andreas Horrem said he has set very high goals for the last segment of his long career, with the primary aim being to play at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The road to Brazil is long but on Friday Horrem and partner Geir Eithun showed what it takes to stand the international elite as they cruised to a straight win (21-19, 21-15) to edge the first-seeded pair of the tournament, Latvia’s Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs. Horrem and Eithun still had to settle for second place in pool J but could nevertheless be happy with their European campaign so far. Friday morning was not a very successful session for Latvia as their second duo, Ruslans Sorokins and Toms Smedins, lost 13-21, 19-21 to Austria’s youngsters Thomas Kunert and 2012 U20 European champion Lorenz Petutschnig to miss out on a spot for the elimination round. Though they joined the competition as underdogs of a star-studded pool, Kunert and Petutschnig provided thousands of fans with something to cheer about to cruise to a straight win and get the right to continue their European Championship campaign.
The home heroes aren’t the only up-and-coming pair standing out here in Klagenfurt as U23 world champions Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak finished first in their group with three wins in as many matches. Actually on Friday they got a bye following yesterday’s withdrawal of Austria’s Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst but their performance is remarkable especially for they had opened pool play by besting triple European champions Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil. The “Oranjes” finished second in the group after claiming their second win of the tournament by seeing off Italy’s Paolo Ingrosso and Matteo Cecchini in straight sets (21-16, 21-16).