Aydin, Turkey, May 20, 2018 – Stefan Basta and Lazar Kolaric wrote yet another piece of history for Serbia’s beach volleyball as they claimed the first ever gold for the southern European nation on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in either gender. Only a week ago, at the Lucerne three-star, the Serbian pair took silver, their first medal on the Tour, starting their quest from the first qualification round, just as they did in Aydin.
Pulling off a tremendous comeback in the nail-biting men’s final of the three-star event in Aydin, second-seeded Basta and Kolaric defeated Iran’s Rahman Raoufi and Abolhamed Mirzaali in three sets and triumphed on top of the podium. The Iranians were also hoping for their first gold, but had to settle for silver, their second medal as a duo, after the bronze they claimed in Satun last month. Raoufi has one more silver and one more bronze on his record, but with a different partner.
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The Aydin bronze went to Russia’s Ruslan Bykanov and Maksim Hudyakov. This was the first medal on the World Tour for either of them.
The men’s podium at Aydin
Basta and Kolaric were brave enough to come back from a set down and an 18-20 deficit in the second to secure a 2-1 (16-21, 25-23, 16-14) victory after over an hour of play time. The final was a real delight for the audience with the fifth-seeded Iranians displaying an extremely solid defence game as the Serbs responded with their powerful attacks. Raoufi and Mirzaali, who had impressed throughout the previous stages of the competition, won the first set 21-16 and were standing on a double match point when they claimed a 20-18 lead in the second. However, Basta and Kolaric were able to fight their way back and eventually won the set 25-23. The tie-breaker was a dramatic affair too where the Serbs came back again to emerge victorious at 16-14.
Basta and Kolaric overwhelmed with emotion upon winning the final
“It was a very long match and our game #25 in three weeks,” Kolaric said afterwards. “We did not have any time to practice in the meantime, so we feel literally exhausted. Iran had excellent defence and it felt like it was simply impossible to score at times. We decided to focus on our defence game as well and we eventually made it to the tie-break. It was something like our tenth tie-break and we had not lost any going into this game. I am happy with the victory and proud of what we achieved together with my partner.”
Turkey’s stars, top-seeded Safa Urlu and Hasan Huseyin Mermer, played against Bykanov and Hudyakov for the bronze medal. Despite the support from the crowd, the Turkish team could not stop the march of the Russian side as Bykanov and Hudyakov celebrated a 2-0 (23-21, 21-14) victory to secure their spot on the podium.
Above-the-net action in the bronze medal match
“We are happy with the result - it is not excellent, yet it is good for us. We loved the Turkish crowd, as they are so passionate and enthusiastic. The Turkish federation chose the right place to host such an event. We will now continue our season with the event in Alanya in two weeks,” Hudyakov said.