By Martin Kocandrle, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Although Shanghai is not typically known for its tropical coast and sunny beachside activities, a corner of the city will be receiving a major makeover as one of Brazil’s favorite pastimes arrives in town. The Swatch FIVB International Beach Volleyball Tournament is making its way to the city for the seventh consecutive year as a part of the second leg of the 2010 tour.

Alexey Yutaliv dives for the ball in the all Russian country quota match, photo courtesy of FIVB.

Currently there are 72 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams from 35 different countries enrolled in the tournament, and with US$380,000 in prize money to be split evenly between the men’s and women’s teams there is more than just international prestige at stake.

With the surprising defeat of Brazilian pairing Alison Cercutti and Emanuel Rego in the final of the men’s tournament in Brasilia, it will be interesting to see if one of the four Brazilian men’s teams can climb to the top of the podium this time in Shanghai.

Eyes will be on 2008/9 player of the year, Brazilian Harley Marques, to see if he can win his fourth consecutive Jinshan title. Marques switched partners to fellow compatriot Pedro Salgado, and following a surprising second round defeat in Brasilia two weeks ago, the three time Jinshan tournament winner has significant ground to regain.

Expectations are also high for the Brazilian Women’s contingent as the pairing of Juliana and Larissa won the tournament in Brasilia and Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes took home the gold medals in Shanghai in 2009. The 2009 victory was Antunes’ second in Shanghai, making this her golden opportunity for a third consecutive title.

The Brazilian women’s team has entered in full force with five pairings set to make a strong impression on the crowds at the Jinshan complex. They will certainly face stiff competition, however, with the return to China of American gold medalist Misty May-Treanor and her new partner Nicole Branagh.

The tournament kicked off on Monday with the all-German country quota match where Jonathan Erdmann and Kay Matysik defeated Markus Bockermann and Mischa Urbatzka in a 38-minute, two set match. As a result the German pair gained entrance into the qualification stage.

Markus Bockermann palms the ball against countrymen Kay Matysik in the opening rounds of the Shanghai Open, photo courtesy of FIVB.

Similarly Andrey Maryshev and Alexey Yutvalin defeated fellow countrymen Konstantin Birlov and Yaroslav Koshkarev in the 42-minute, 3 set all-Russian country quota match. The two teams met in an identical quota match in Brasilia where Maryshev and Yutvalin also emerged victorious.

The men’s competition held country quota matches on Monday, May 3rd with subsequent qualification rounds on Tuesday, May 4th. Winning teams will progress into the money rounds until the gold medal match on Saturday, May 8th, 2010.

The women’s competition kicked off its country quota matches on Tuesday, May 4th, to be followed by qualification on Wednesday, May 5th and the Main Draw Rounds on Thursday, May 6th. The gold medal match is scheduled to be played on Sunday.

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