The last few months of 2014 have been very auspicious for the veteran Reinder Nummerdor and the tall blocker Christiaan Varenhorst. The Dutchmen won their second World Tour gold in only their third tournament together and thus close the season in perfect style.
Having started their partnership at the end of August in Stare Jablonki, the players from the Netherlands have been on a roll ever since. The fifth place at the Polish Grand Slam was followed by a stunning win at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam before the two could enjoy grabbing the title at the year’s ultimate Open in Mangaung this weekend. Meanwhile, the “flying” Dutchmen also won the Baku Masters, part of CEV’s beach volleyball program.
Seeded number one in the Main Draw, Nummerdor-Varenhorst felt the pressure of being the team to beat in South Africa, but they were able to pull out a perfect week. The thunderstorm prior to the gold medal match against the Chilean cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt, who had to make a small world trip to arrive in Bloemfontein at the beginning of the week, could not interrupt the winning rhythm of the tournament’s favourites and they scored a straight-set win (21-18, 21-18). It was a second set of silver medals for the South American representatives as they repeated their finish from the Argentinian Open at Parana.
The final was not as easy as Nummerdor and Varenhorst might have wanted. The Grimalt cousins displayed a more focused game style compared to their disappointing result in the gold medal match in Parana against the Canadians Binstock-Schachter. Marco Grimalt, the more offensive of the two, had some remarkable attacks and blocks versus Nummerdor which proved that the Chileans’ most successful campaign comes as no accident. However, what the two cousins and pioneers of beach volleyball in Chile lacked to grab first gold for the country was just some experience in key situations at the end of the sets. Also, a bit more defence skills by Esteban would’ve helped immensely. At the end of the second set when the cousins had their chances to enter a third set Esteban seemed a bit slow covering the field and this weakness was immediately exploited by the cunning Reinder Nummerdor.
Absolutely splendid and classy was the way the Dutch team took a lead at 20-18 in the second set. First it was Nummerdor with a great cut shot to put the Netherlands a point ahead. Then, in what I think is surely the rally of the game and perhaps the Open in general, Nummerdor dived gracefully to save a ball which Varenhorst set while still sitting on the ground. The third touch was another cut shot by Nummerdor that caught Marco Grimalt unprepared. An action that practically gave the gold medals to the Dutchmen.
“This has been a fantastic partnership so far”, the 2012 Rookie of the year Christiaan Varenhorst said. “We have been playing well from beginning to start. This began in Poland (Stare Jablonki) where we finished fifth. And after that we only lost one game, I think. I am really happy Reinder is making me play my best and I can also make him play well.”
Varenhorst had already won a World Tour medal in 2014 as he and his former long-time partner Jon Stiekema beat the new Tour champions Samoilovs-Smedins for the bronze at the season opener in Fuzhou.
The bronze medal match on Sunday put familiar faces on the two sides of the central court. The Frenchmen Youssef Krou and Edouard Rowlandson were chasing their third pair of medals in 2014 and they eventually got it by outsmarting the Germans Sebastian Fuchs and Thomas Kaczmarek in two sets (21-16, 21-17). Holding a title at Xiamen and bronze at Doha and Mangaung, Krou-Rowlandson can undoubtedly be grateful that the season ends much better for them as they would’ve expected. Fuchs-Kaczmarek, on the other side, have failed for the second time this year to win medals after they finished fourth in Parana as well.
With Reinder Nummerdor refusing to retire and still able to win medals with his new partner, plus the return of the reigning World champions next year Brouwer-Meeuwsen, the Netherlands will have their ambitions in 2015 as the “low lands” will organize the next World Championships.