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


Poles Rudol and Kantor were one of the eight teams to advance on the men's side

Teams from ten different countries ended Thursday, the opening day of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge, with good reason to celebrate as they advanced to the main draw of the tournament played in Brazil.

Only eight duos per gender survived the 32-team qualifier held at the Meia Praia Beach and will now be tested in the main draw, which begins on Friday, at 08:00 local time (13:00 UTC), with 24 men’s and women’s tandems looking for the title of the second Challenge event of the season.

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The men’s qualifier saw teams from six countries secure a spot in the main draw in Itapema and among them were Poles Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol. Seeded ninth entering the qualifier, the Europeans had a good day in Itapema, eliminating Brazilians Arthur Mariano and Adrielson da Silva with a two-set (21-18, 21-19) victory in the first round and advancing after another straight-set (21-17, 21-18) triumph in the second round, this time against Mexicans Juan Virgen and Miguel Sarabia.

“Qualifiers are always difficult,” Rudol told Volleyball World. “Especially from a mental standpoint, there’s always the pressure of losing a match and getting out of the tournament before the main draw starts. We had two very tough matches, on one it was sunny and on the other, it was rainy, but were ready for these battles. We’re happy that we qualified and we hope that we can win a pair of matches tomorrow too, that’s our goal.”


Rudol gets a block in the first match of the day, against the Brazilians

The second round of the qualifier in Itapema also featured an all-American matchup, with Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander getting the best of Chase Budinger and Miles Evans and advancing with a two-set (21-17, 21-13) win. Sander, a Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist with the United States men's volleyball national team, and Crabb are making their first appearance in the 2023 Beach Pro Tour season this week in Itapema.


Sander swings during the qualifier in Brazil

Their compatriots Andy Benesh and Miles Partain also advanced to the main draw in Itapema, but had a bigger mountain to climb, knocking out the home team of Rio 2016 Olympic champion Alison Cerutti and his new partner Oscar Guimarães in the tie-breaker (21-19, 19-21, 15-12) in the last match of the day.

Argentina also had two teams moving forward to the main draw in Itapema, with Tokyo Olympians Nicolás Capogrosso and Julian Azaad thriving with their new partners. Capogrosso and his younger brother Tomas overcame Swiss Adrian Heidrich and Leo Dillier 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-10), while Azaad and Maciel Bueno topped the Spanish brothers Javier and Alejandro Huerta also in the tie-breaker (20-22, 30-28, 15-12).

Portugal's João Pedrosa/Hugo Campos, Cuba's Jorge Alayo/Noslen Diaz and Switzerland's Yves Haussener/Quentin Métral completed the list of men's teams that made it to the main draw in Itapema.

China was one of only two countries to have two teams advancing on Thursday’s qualifier in Itapema. One of those duos, the one of Xinxin Wang and Lingdi Zhu, had one of the most sensational victories of the day, eliminating Rio 2016 Olympic champion Laura Ludwig and her German partner Louisa Lippmann in the second round of the qualifier with a three-set (11-21, 21-16, 15-11) victory.

The other Chinese duo, formed by Jie Dong and two-time Olympian Fan Wang, also scored a big win, overcoming the top Austrian team of Katharina Schützenhöfer and Lena Plesiutschnig in the tie-breaker (15-21, 21-13, 15-9).

Two Dutch teams also succeeded in the Itapema qualifier, with top-seeded Emma Piersma and Mexime van Driel beating Japan’s Akiko Hasegawa and Yurika Sakaguchi 2-1 (17-21, 21-19, 16-14) and their younger sisters Brecht Piersma and Emi van Driel overcoming Mexicans Atenas Gutierrez and Abril Flores in straight sets (21-19, 21-16).


Emma Piersma digs in the Itapema qualifier

Spanish Liliana Fernández and Paula Soria had a dramatic second-round match, triumphing over Poles Katarzyna Kociolek and Marta Lodej in two close sets (21-19, 24-22).

“The first set was really close,” Liliana reflected. “We were able to keep the difference at one point the entire time and at the end, we won the final points. They changed their strategy on the second set and started serving Paula and that got us out of our rhythm a bit. We were down 16-12, but kept fighting and got the comeback.”

The other women’s teams to succeed in the Itapema Challenge qualifier were Austria’s Ronja Klinger/Dorina Klinger, Switzerland’s Zoé Vergé-Dépré/Esmeé Böbner and USA’s Toni Rodriguez/Savvy Simo.

Friday’s schedule in Itapema features the modified pool play round, with each team getting on the court twice and two lucky loser matches in each gender. The top two teams in each pool and the two best third-placed duos advance directly to the Round of 16, with the remaining third-placed sides playing in the lucky loser round, from where the last two teams that will compete in the elimination rounds will emerge.