Challenge - Itapema, BRA - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News


George and partner Andre are among the pool winners in Itapema

Six men’s teams survived a day of heavy rain and intense battles in Brazil to emerge as the pool winners of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge ahead of the start of the elimination rounds on Saturday.

Joining the six undefeated duos in the Round of 16 at the Meia Praia Beach on Saturday will be all six teams that finished second in their pools, the two best-ranked third-placed sides and another two teams that advanced from the lucky loser round held on Friday evening.

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There was a lot of competition for the top spots in each of the six men’s pools in Itapema with five of the six pool finals going to three sets. On the winning side of one of them were Dutch Steven van de Velde and Matthew Immers, who are playing their first tournament as partners in Itapema.

The Dutch had a challenging day on Pool B, but powered through it, with a pair of three-set victories over USA's Taylor Crabb/Taylor Sander (20-22, 24-22, 18-16) and Austria’s Robin Seidl/Moritz Pristauz (21-15, 19-21, 15-13).

“It was a perfect start for us today,” Immers reflected. “We went to three sets on the two matches, but we won both, so we couldn’t be any happier. We had three weeks of training before this event, but we came to Brazil earlier so we could practice outside and make the final adjustments. We didn’t set a specific goal for this event, but will certainly be looking for a win tomorrow.”

The two will be together only for a few events, while van de Velde’s regular partner, Rio Olympian Christiaan Varenhorst, recovers from injury. In order to be able to play with the 22-year-old Immers in Brazil, the 28-year-old van de Velde had to mold his game, moving from the left to the right and taking up blocking duties at the net.

“Everything has been going well so far,” van de Velde analysed. “We had some issues at the start of the first match, but have managed to play well after that and remained consistent. We’re still figuring out how to play with each other, but it’s definitely great that we managed to start with two wins. I have moved to the right and am blocking again after four years, but I think I still have my blocking instincts, so it hasn’t been that hard.”

Pool C also needed a tie-breaker to determine its winners, with Spanish Pablo Herrera and Adrián Gavira, the champions of last month’s La Paz Challenge, overcoming Brazilians Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima, the silver medallists of last year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship, 2-1 (16-21, 21-15, 15-12).

Two more European duos topped their pools Itapema with Norwegians Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen prevailing over Polish qualifiers Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol 2-1 (21-23, 21-18, 15-8) in Pool D and Frenchmen Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat coming from behind to upset Brazilians Evandro Gonçalves and Arthur Lanci also in three sets (14-21, 22-20, 15-10) in Pool E.

There was no shortage of drama on Pool F either, with USA’s Tri Bourne/Chaim Schalk and Australia’s Chris McHugh/Paul Burnett battling for first place. In the end, the Americans came from behind to prevail in three sets (19-21, 21-15, 15-7).

The only team to win their pools in straight sets were the home favorites Andre Loyola and George Wanderley, who topped Americans Miles Partain and Andy Benesh 2-0 (21-12, 21-17) in Pool A.

On Saturday, the match schedule of the Itapema Challenge will feature the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals.