By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – No fewer than seven Brazilian doubles partnerships went to Rome last week attempting to maintain their country’s dominance over this year’s World Beach Volleyball Tour. The Foro Italico Open was the season’s third stop, held between May 12th and May 17th and eventually brought to an end Brazil’s stranglehold on the medals.
The first day of competition saw the Country Quota qualifiers. Apart from the host country, one nation can only place up to four doubles in the main draw, and since Ricardo/Emanuel, Alison/Harley and Cunha/Solberg were already qualified (thanks to their higher rankings) the other four pairings – Insfran/Moreira, Neto/Pitta, Jan/Thiago, and Araujo/Fábio Luiz – had to battle for the remaining spot in the main event.
The Jan/Thiago duo won out, beating 2008 Olympic Silver Medalists Araújo/Fábio Luiz, with Araújo saying afterward, “Playing in the Country Quota rounds is brutal, especially when you travel such a long way and play one of the top teams from your own country. This is a very disappointing result.” The winners still had to face two more matches in Wednesday’s qualifiers to secure a spot in the main draw which they did by beating Czech pair Kufa/Weiss and the Frenchmen Dugrip/Salvetti.
The main event began on Thursday and each double had to play twice to win a spot in the quarter-finals. Ricardo/Emanuel, Alison/Harley, and Cunha/Solberg all won both matches and went through,with only Jan/Thiago missing out having lost to the Russian duo of Barsouk/Kolodinsky.
The grueling schedule continued on Friday with the quarters and both Alison/Harley and Ricardo/Emanuel won two more matches to progress. One of the Ricardo/Emanuel victories was against fellow countrymen Pedro Cunha and Pedro Solberg but they avoided automatic elimination having won their other match of the day, meaning yet another qualifying stage on Saturday morning to contest the third semi-final spot. Victory against home pairing Paolo Nicolai and Matteo Varnier put three Brazilian teams through much to the disappointment of the Italian crowd, whilst the fourth place was claimed by the German double Brink/Reckermann.
Olympic and World champions Ricardo and Emanuel faced Brink/Reckermann on Saturday afternoon, while Alison and Harley clashed with the two Pedros, who had already played that morning. Against the odds the German double defeated the favorites, and Cunha and Solberg, still reeling from their morning match against the Italians, eventually beat Alison/Harley. “This was a big win for us” said 23-year old Pedro Soldberg afterwards, “Alison and Harley had defeated us pretty handily in our previous two matches against them.”
The final on the Sunday afternoon proved one game too many for them though, and despite running the German duo close the Pedros Cunha and Solberg lost the final by two sets to one (26/28, 22/20 and 13/15). In the third place decider, Alison/Harley defeated Olympic and World champions Ricardo/Emanuel by 2-0 (21/12 e 23/21) to claim the Bronze medal.
The next stop of the World Tour will be on Myslowice, Poland, between May 26th and May 31st, when the third and final of the men-only competitions will be held. After that, the World Tour moves on to Stavanger, Norway, and returns to the double-gender event.