Espinho, Portugal, July 3, 2018 – The town of Espinho on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, one of the veteran venues on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, is hosting a Tour event this week, from July 3 through 8. After welcoming the world’s beach volleyball elite from 1995 to 2007, Espinho reappeared on the World Tour calendar in 2017 with a men-only two-star event and upgraded to a double-gender four-star event this year. It will be the 15th men’s and the 10th women’s FIVB tournament in the city, known as the volleyball capital of Portugal.
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The $300,000 prize purse and the great conditions on the sandy Atlantic beach have attracted 100 teams (55 men’s and 45 women’s pairs) representing 33 different countries. In each gender a 32-team main draw will feature a modified pool play system with the top three teams in each four-team pool progressing to the single elimination phase. With 24 duos seeded directly into the main draw, the remaining eight spots will be contested in qualifications to be played on Wednesday for women and on Thursday for men.
Beach volleyball fever in Espinho attracted many spectators to one of the side courts on Tuesday, where a country quota battle between two Brazilian women’s pairs took place. Coming back from a solid deficit in the first set, Ana Patricia Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva, managed to change the momentum and claim a 2-0 (23-21, 21-17) victory over Josemari Alves and Liliane Maestrini. Men’s country quota matches for Brazil and USA are scheduled for Wednesday.
Ana Patricia and Rebecca celebrate their victory over Josi and Lili
FIVB World Ranking leaders Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada top the women’s line-up on entry points. They teamed up at the end of the 2016 season and have since won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal on the World Tour. Their only podium finish in 2018 was the winners’ title from the Xiamen four-star.
Brazil’s Barbara Seixas De Freitas and Fernanda Alves are next on entry points. Since they got together for the start of the 2017 season, the two experienced Brazilians have earned three gold medals on the World Tour – Xiamen 2017, Fort Lauderdale 2018 and Huntington Beach 2018, but no other podium finishes.
The top three in the entry list also includes another Brazilian pair, Maria Antonelli and Carolina Solberg Salgado. After topping the podium together at the Hague in 2017, Maria Antonelli and Carol will be after their second gold as a team. Each of them has numerous World Tour medals with various partners, but only three overall with each other. Last week, at the Warsaw four-star event, Carol suffered an ankle injury, which caused a forfeit of their second elimination round game, but she and her partner have arrived in Espinho and are already training for the main draw matches.
“I was not sure if I would be able to play here, but it turned out it was not as serious an ankle twist as we initially thought, so my team physio and I decided that it’s possible. I feel that day by day I am getting better and better. Of course, we will see tomorrow. I have one more day to rest, do more therapy and recover. I really want to play here, at the Espinho tournament,” Carol said.
The 24-team line-up of pairs directly qualified for the women’s main draw is completed by three duos from USA, two each from Canada and Japan, and one each from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine.
One of the most decorated players in the history of beach volleyball, 2008 Olympic champion and three-time Olympian Philip Dalhausser, and his partner since 2015, Nick Lucena, lead the preliminary seeding for the men’s main draw. As a pair, the two well-seasoned 38-year-old Americans have already piled up nine gold, three silver and two bronze medals on the World Tour. This will be the fourth appearance on the Tour for them in 2018, which they started with gold at the Fort Lauderdale Major in February.
The impressive line-up continues with another legendary name, that of reigning Olympic champion and 2012 silver medallist Alison Cerutti, who recently teamed up with reigning world champion Andre Loyola Stein. While each of them has a number of gold medals and podium finishes on the World Tour with different partners, their first two appearances together as a team took place at the Ostrava four-star (17th) two weeks ago and at the Warsaw four-star (5th) last week.
The Brazilian duo who defeated Alison and Andre in Warsaw and went on to claim silver - Vitor Goncalves Felipe and the other reigning world champion, Evandro Goncalves Oliveira Junior - come third on entry points. The first and only World Tour gold for this pair dates back to the Berlin Grand Slam in 2013. After the 2014 season they went their separate ways only to reunite last month, before the Ostrava (5th) and Warsaw (2nd) events. At Espinho 2017, Vitor Felipe topped the podium alongside George Souto Maior Wanderley, so now each of them has a title to defend, but with a different teammate.
The remaining 21 pairs seeded directly into the men’s main draw are made up of two Canadian, two Latvian, two Russian and two US teams, and one each from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Qatar and Spain.
Live streaming of centre court matches at Espinho will be available on the Portuguese Volleyball Federation’s online TV channel