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03/08/2013 19:00
Lupo and Nicolai hope for Italy's first medal in 17 years
2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship Final presented by checkrobin.com

Klagenfurt, Austria, August 3, 2013. Germany’s hopes to retain the crown claimed the last couple of years by Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann were blown on Saturday afternoon as the three pairs from this country still in the race all lost their respective 1/4 final matches. On Sunday, for the much anticipated last day of the 2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship, Italy’s Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai will play Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera while in the first semi-final Latvia’s first-seeded Smedins/Samoilovs will take on Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel at 10 am local time.  

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Germany’s Sebastian Dollinger and Stefan Windscheif – the real sensation of the tournament – missed out on an almost unique opportunity to make it to the semis as they failed to cash a match point in the second set of their game with Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel. Dollinger/Windscheif started out strong claiming the first set 21-17 and even though they did trail for most of the second (12:15) they clawed back to level the score at 17 before they had the chance to finish it off at 20:19. However, they could not capitalize on this match ball and their opponents showed no mercy sealing the 22-20 that paved the way for the tie-break. Dollinger and Windscheif – evidently disappointed and mentally shocked after missing that chance – went down 0:4 in the third set but then regrouped for a 5:2 run whereby they cut their gap to a minimum (5:6). That was nevertheless the turning point of the game for they again started making mistakes and Fijalek/Prudel broke away never looking back and wrapping it up with an ace by Fijalek. “This was a very difficult game as we had to chase from behind and the weather conditions are extremely demanding. It is difficult to stand this heat and as our opponents regularly served on me, I was the one who had to do most of the work” so Fijalek. “We are nevertheless happy for making the semis. We need to get good results as the start of the season was pretty good for us but the last few weeks we did not show what we are capable of. We lost in the first round at the World Championships and this was a big blow for us as we were playing at home”. Though their country has dominated all age-group Championships in recent times, Poland has never medalled at the “big” European Championship with the best result dating back to last year as Michal Kadziola and Jakub Szalankiewicz finished fourth in The Hague. “In the semis we will play Smedins/Samoilovs or Horrem/Eithun. On paper the Latvian guys shall win their quarterfinal but we have seen that Norway had a good tournament so far even beating the Austrian guys on centre court. We’ll wait for the result of their game to get ready for the semis and we look forward to the final day of the tournament” he added.    

After winning the “big match” of the 1/8 finals with world champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen (NED), Germany’s Kay Matysik and Jonathan Erdmann could simply not stand the quality showed by Italy’s Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai who cruised to a straight victory (21-17, 21-14) to make the semis of the European Championship for the first time in their still young career. Italy hasn’t won a medal since 1996 – Ghiurghi and Grigolo were third in Pescara – but Nicolai and Lupo showed such a great combination of play at the net and in defence that they look on a good way to compensate for that deficit. “This was a super game” said Lupo whose actions did delight the Austrian fans who hadn’t left the centre court almost at the end of a very long day that had started at 9 am with the women’s semi-finals. On the other hand, Matysik – who asked for a medical time-out right in the early phases of the second set – and Erdmann paid farewell to the tournament settling for fifth place after winning bronze at this year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland.  

Latvia’s first-seeded Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs got their revenge after losing in pool play to Norway’s Iver Andreas Horrem – who even received a red card – and Geir Eithun. The pre-favourites for gold here in Klagenfurt after making three time the finals on the World Tour showed no mercy for their opponents cruising to a 21-15, 21-13 victory whose score line reflects the supremacy of the Latvian duo. On Sunday Janis Smedins – a bronze medallist from the London Olympics – will go for his second European medal after winning bronze three years ago in Berlin together with former partner Martins Plavins, hoping to add another one to his collection and something to be combined with the celebrations for his birthday (he turned 26 this past Wednesday).  

On the last game of the day, 2005 European champion Pablo Herrera and his partner Adrian Gavira – with whom he shared bronze in Sochi four years ago – literally routed Germany’s Alexander Walkenhorst and Lars Flüggen with a 21-11, 21-15 win where they never found any resistance from the duo that had finished second at the CEV Novi Sad Masters as well as at the FIVB Open in Anapa last week. Though standing at 206 cm, Walkenhorst could not stop the intelligent play by the Spaniards and won’t be able to emulate younger sister Kira who on Saturday afternoon had claimed bronze alongside Laura Ludwig.

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