The Hague, Netherlands, January 5, 2018 – Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle didn’t hang around to top their pool and progress straight to the second knockout round at the Dela Beach Open, when they won their second pool play match, on Thursday.
The Belgium pair beat Canada’s Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman 2-0 (21-11, 21-16) to top Pool F. As such they will have Saturday morning off as they skip the first knockout round that takes place in the indoor arena at Sportcampus Zuiderpark in The Hague.
“There are a new team, but individually they are both really good players and both have a lot of experience, so we knew it would be tough,” van Walle said. “It proved to be that way at the start of the first set and we started strongly, but we lacked some aggression especially in the shots and Grant could defend them easily.
“It became a mental game for us to stay focused and maintain our rhythm. Dries found his serve and our sideout became better and better.
“We gained a lot of momentum from winning the first set and we started the second much better, but we had to stay focused every point and sideout. It was a good team win.”
Last year the pair enjoyed the first major upturn in their fortunes since they made their FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship debut as a tandem in St Petersburg in 2015.
They reached their first World Tour semifinals at the Qinzhou 3-Star tournament, and also finished fourth at the CEV European Championships. They reached the Olsztyn 4-Star quarterfinals and made it through the pool stagers at the Austria 2017, FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
“We have gained a lot of experience and we have a new coach (Michiel Van der Kuip),” van Walle said. “Mentally we took some important steps, especially when we are down we can now stay focused and try for the win.
“Before we would have lost our heads. That is a big step for us and we will try to improve some more.”
Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan were another side who made it straight into the second knockout round, in their first World Tour tournament together.
They needed to dig deep in their second pool encounter, against Anders Mol and Christian Sorum 2-1 (21-23, 21-19, 15-13). The young Norwegian pair were leading 6-5 in the tie-break, but Cherif and Tijan improved their serving to make it two wins from two.
“It is a good start for us,” Cherif said. “We started well and had to be patient in the game especially as it went to a tie-break.
“Our defence was working very well and at the end our sideout was so-so, but the timeout at the end changed everything.”
For more information on the tournament, click here