Vienna, Austria, July 30, 2018 - For the second-straight year in the Austrian capital, it will be steamy weather conditions as the $600,000 A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch officially opens here on Tuesday at the Donauinsel with FIVB World Tour qualifying action for men and women.
Although this year’s Vienna Major does not have the World Championship designation for the tournament as compared to the 2017 event at the Donauinsel, the 2018 competition is just as important as it is the final qualifying event for the season-ending $800,000 Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg, Germany.
With the temperature in the low 30°C (92°F), two country quota matches for Brazilian pairs were played on Monday on an outer court at the Donauinsel to set the field for Tuesday’s first round of men’s qualifying. Athens 2004 Olympic and Rio 2003 world champion Ricardo Santos teamed with Gustavo "Guto" Carvalhaes to earn the final spot in the men’s Vienna qualifier.
The 43-year old Ricardo and the 24-year old Guto posted a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) win in 36 minutes to win the country quota match over Thiago Santos Barbosa/George Wanderley, who had defeated their Brazilian rivals three weeks ago in Gstaad, Switzerland in the playoff. In the other playoff match on Monday, Thiago and Wanderley defeated Saymon Barbosa/Alvaro Filho 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) in 45 minutes.
Ricardo Santos (left) and Thiago Santos Barbosa compete in the Brazilian country quota at Gstaad, Switzerland
While the women complete qualifying on Tuesday with two rounds of play to send the final eight pairs to Wednesday’s 32-team Main Draw, the men will finish their preliminary rounds on Wednesday to advance eight more tandems to Thursday’s opening Main Draw rounds.
The women’s Main Draw features pool play on Wednesday followed by the first round of elimination on Thursday and two more knock-out sessions on Friday to set the field for Saturday’s final four matches highlighted by the afternoon podium placement meetings where the gold medal winning team will split the $40,000 first-place prize.
The men’s schedule has two rounds of modified pool play on Thursday, two rounds of bracket play on Friday and the quarterfinals on Saturday to advance four teams to Sunday’s final four where the final two pairs compete for the $40,000 gold medal reward.
The Vienna Major marks the 21st men’s and 17th women’s FIVB World Tour event in Austria with the European country hosting two events this season with the first tournament being staged in Baden in mid-June where local favorites Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst captured the men’s title and Teresa Mersmann/Cinja Tillmann of Germany topped the women’s podium.
Doppler and Horst, two-time Olympians and partners since 2012, are hoping to continue success on their sand in Vienna as the Austrian pair placed second at the 2017 FIVB World Championships in the Austrian capital. Mersmann and Tillmann are also on a streak as the Germans captured their second FIVB World Tour gold medal on Sunday in Japan by defeating Finland’s Taru Lahti/Anniina Parkkinen in the Tokyo Open finale.
Mersmann and Tillmann’s Baden crown marked the third-straight gold medal finish for a German women’s team in Austria as reigning Olympic and world champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst captured back-to-back titles in Klagenfurt in 2016 and were victorious here last year at the Vienna worlds.
Brazilian men’s teams have captured 11 of the previous 20 men’s gold medals in Austria highlighted by Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola’s World Championship win last August over Doppler and Horst. The Brazilian pair will be competing in Vienna this week with different partners as Evandro is playing with Vitor Felipe and Loyola with Alison Cerutti.
While the men started playing FIVB-sanctioned beach volleyball events in Austria in 1997, the women’s first event in the European country was in 2001 when the legendary Brazilian team of Shelda Bede/Adriana Behar topped the podium in Klagenfurt. The United States (six titles), Brazil (five) and Germany (three) have accounted for 14 of the previous 16 women’s Austrian gold medal winners with China and Russia breaking through in 2006 and 2012, respectively.