Challenge - Itapema, BRA - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News


Gauthier-Rat and partner Krou are among the semifinalists in Itapema

Hosts Brazil, Cuba, France and Norway are the four nations still standing in the men’s tournament of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge, which will come to an end on Sunday at the Meia Praia Beach.

The last day of competition in Itapema will start with a pair of semifinal duels, with Brazil’s Andre Loyola/George Wanderley facing Norway’s Hendrik Mol/Mathias Berntsen at 11:00 local time (16:00 UTC) and France’s Youssef Krou/Arnaud Gauthier-Rat meeting Cuba’s Jorge Alayo/Noslen Diaz one hour later.

The medal matches will happen later in the day in Brazil, with the contest for bronze beginning at 17:00 local time (22:00 UTC) and the gold medal match starting at 18:00 local time (23:00 UTC).

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For the 33-year-old Krou and the 26-year-old Gauthier Rat, making it to the semifinals in Itapema is almost like life coming full circle as it was in the Brazilian city where the two shared the court for the same time, at last year’s Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament, when they finished fifth after starting in the qualifier.

“Our first tournament together was here in Itapema last year and we ended it with some really good feelings about our team,” Gauthier-Rat told Volleyball World. “We came here looking to do better this time and are at least one step further now, which is great for us.”


Gauthier-Rat hits around Gavira's block

Coached by Brazilians Lissandro Carvalho and Elmer Calvis, the French feel at home in Itapema and that’s showing on the court.

“We feel very well here in Itapema,” the defender added. “We know the people here, we have our favorite place to eat and it helps a lot when we get on the court and play. The semifinals will be tough, but we’ll enter the match looking to win it again.”

On Saturday, Krou and Gauthier-Rat displayed strength and focus to make it to the semifinals in Brazil, winning three-setters against Australians Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett (19-21, 21-17, 16-14) in the Round of 16 and Spanish Pablo Herrera and Adrián Gavira (23-21, 13-21, 15-12) in the quarterfinals.

Their semifinal opponents, 21-year-old Alayo and 20-year-old Diaz were in the lucky loser bracket less than 24 hours ago, but turned things around in a strong way and enter the semifinals in Itapema on a four-match winning streak.

On Saturday, the Caribbean had a strong day in Brazil, topping second-seeded Dutch Steven van de Velde and Matthew Immers in the tie-breaker (21-18, 17-21, 15-13) in the Round of 16 and overcoming last year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship silver medallists Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima of Brazil in straight sets (21-19, 21-11) in the quarterfinals.


George hits in a packed centre court in Itapema

Top-seeded Brazilian Andre and George will play in the semifinals in Itapema for a third-straight year after winning the 2021 FIVB World Tour event held there and last year’s Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge.

The two, who also won a Brazilian Tour stop hosted by the city last weekend, started the day on Saturday with a straight-set (25-23, 21-18) victory over the Argentinean Capogrosso brothers Nicolás and Tomas in the Round of 16. Later, in the quarterfinals, they overcame Americans Miles Partain and Andy Benesh in the tie-breaker (23-21, 17-21, 15-13).


Mol avoids Bourne's block during their quarterfinal match

Their semifinal opponents, Norwegians Mol and Berntsen had a similar path to the semifinals, beating Austrians Julian Hörl and Alexander Horst in two sets (21-18, 21-10) in the Round of 16 and having to work harder against Americans Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk in their three-set (20-22, 21-15, 15-12) quarterfinal encounter.