Ljubljana, Slovenia, December 1, 2018 – Top-seeded Aliaksandr Dziadkou and Pavel Piatrushka of Belarus, who started off on the wrong foot in the men’s main draw at the Ljubljana winter edition one-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, fought their way back to the semifinal spots hammering out three straight-set victories on Saturday.
Pairs from Australia, Germany and Turkey also advanced to the last four and will battle it out for the medals on Sunday.
The Belarusians started their competition day with a live-or-die duel with Netherlands’ Mees Blom and Ruben Penninga for the third place in Pool A. Dziadkou and Piatrushka progressed to the elimination stage with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-13) over the Dutchmen. Gaining momentum, in the first knockout round the Belarusians mastered a speedy 2-0 (21-13, 21-13) shutout of Czechs Jindrich Weiss and Martin Tichy in just 26 minutes of play. It was pretty much the same story in the quarterfinals, where Dziadkou and Piatrushka cruised to a 2-0 (21-13, 21-15) landslide over second-seeded Kacper Kujawiak and Mateusz Paszkowski of Poland.
Their next opponents in the semifinals on Sunday will be fifth-seeded Germans Robin Sowa and Eric Stadie. The topped the Pool D standings after a hard-fought 2-1 (25-27, 21-19, 15-11) victory over home favourites Danijel Pokersnik and Gasper Plahutnik, shooting forward to a quarterfinal clash with Latvia’s Matiss Gabdullins and Mihails Samoilovs. Another tough battle resulted in another three-set win – 2-1 (18-21, 21-19, 15-11) Germany’s way.
Third-seeded Selcuk Sekerci and Safa Urlu claimed the first place in Pool C with a 55-minute 2-1 (21-18, 19-21, 17-15) tie-breaker victory over Weiss and Tichy in the longest running match of the tournament so far. In the quarterfinals, the Turks had a speedy first set and a very tough second set against sensational Slovenian wild cards Vid Jakopin and Jure Peter Bedrac, closing the match off at 2-0 (21-11, 22-20) to advance to the semis.
"It was a very tough match,” exclaimed Sekerci after closing the game with the Slovenians. “This is our first tournament together. I have not played any serious tournaments like this for the last two years, so we are very happy to win. The first set we played very well. It was already the third game of the day for the Slovenian guys and they were quite tired I think. In the second set they served very well, I made some mistakes in reception and it made the situation harder for us. We are enjoying the tournament. It’s nice to be here. We need to collect some points so being in the semifinals is a good thing for us. We want to play in the final so we will try to win tomorrow."
Sekerci and Urlu will lock horns with Paul Burnett and Maximilian Guehrer in the early semifinal on Sunday. The ninth-seeded Australians are the lowest ranked pair that made it among the last four. In the Pool A final they fought back from a set down against Jakopin and Bedrac to snatch a nail-biting 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 17-15) victory and advance to the quarterfinals. There they did it again – a dramatic 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 15-13) come-from-behind win over Kazakhstan’s Alexey Kuleshov and Artem Petrossyants and on to the semis.
Paul Burnett celebrating
"At the beginning of the first set we were really on our side-out and got some defensive points, but then just about halfway through we dropped a few and just couldn’t quite hold on, so we lost that set,” Guehrer commented on their quarterfinal performance. “In the second set we did a switch-up at 19-19, served the other guy, got a couple of points and then just ran with the momentum through the rest of the game. We made a couple of little defensive adjustments. Paul did some great digs so it was really a team effort. In the semis we just want to focus on ourselves and make sure we are on our side-out. We know that defensively we will make some points for ourselves, so as long as we side out, it’s going to be a good game."
Burnett and Guehrer will face Sekerci and Urlu at noon local time on Sunday. An hour later the second semifinal, Sowa and Stadie v Dziadkou and Piatrushka will get underway. The bronze medal game is set to start at 15:30, before the grand finale, starting at 18:00, determines the champions.