As the World Tour returned to the birthplace of beach volleyball, California, two Brazilian players demonstrated their recent superiority by capturing their fourth straight gold medal on the international circuit. Newly crowned world champions, Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt added the Grand Slam title from Long Beach this weekend to their previous triumphs at the Major in Gstaad, Switzerland, and the Yokohama Grand Slam, Japan.
This achievement is valuable not only because it sets Alison-Bruno high at the top of the world rankings but also because the Brazilians matched Dalhausser-Rogers’ series of four consecutive gold medals dating back to 2010. And guess who they beat in the final on South California sand on Sunday – namely Phil Dalhausser and his new partner and college friend Nick Lucena.
“You can say that the World Championship helped a lot, Bruno said, reflecting on their successful run. “After the World Championship, we said ‘Good, we made a huge thing for the season, especially the Olympic run’, but we just forgot everything like points and the Olympic qualifications and focused on every match. We don’t need to think about anything, just the match. When we started thinking that way, we played so much better. We just need to continue doing so.”
Unlike the previous immaculate events, the Brazilians had a more difficult job claiming the crown in Long Beach. The location in California had proven to be lucky for American players and it was the “Thin Beast” Phil Dalhausser who was the defending back-to-back champion in Long Beach, having won the Grand Slam in 2013 and 2014 with Sean Rosenthal. On top of that, Alison-Bruno slipped up in the preliminary phase already by losing to another team from USA, Hyden-Bourne, in three sets (21-13, 15-21, 9-15). Albeit rare these days, the defeat did not demoralize “The Mammoth” and the Best Spiker from the World Championship in the Netherlands. On Friday, the Brazilians had to enter the first elimination round and play three games in total to reach the semis on Saturday. This included hard-fought three-set wins against fellow countrymen Saymon-Guto Carvalhaes and Ricardo-Emanuel. Alison and Bruno were almost merciless against the 2013 world champions Brouwer-Meeuwsen (21-18, 21-17) in the semifinal and silenced the local crowd for the win versus Lucena-Dalhausser (21-16, 20-22, 15-13) after an almost 24-hour break. Just as a way to celebrate the return of the game to the place of its genesis, the final had to face teams from the two most decorated beach volleyball schools in history.
The lowest-seeded Americans in the Main Draw, Lucena and Dalhausser received a wild card for the Long Beach Grand Slam and should be delighted with the silver medal in their third international tournament overall (they had competed together at two events back in 2005) and first since their partnership resurrected a couple of weeks ago. Their combined age might be one of the oldest on the Tour, with the veterans Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego totally beating any other team in this category, but the duo Lucena-Dalhausser is capable of achieving some great results and will surely be vying for an Olympic spot. However, the lack of points for the newly formed tandem will send them into the qualifiers of next week’s last Grand Slam of the season in Olsztyn, Poland.
Winners of the 2015 Moscow Grand Slam, the Spaniards Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira rebounded from a detrimental opening set against the Dutchmen Brouwer-Meeuwsen to win the bronze medals (9-21, 21-17, 15-12). It was the second time this season when the 2013 European champions stepped on the podium and the second time to earn a medal position in Long Beach, following their runner-up finish in 2013. It has been somewhat disappointing three weeks for the Dutchmen as they repeated their fourth place from the recent European Championship in Klagenfurt. Brouwer-Meeuwsen have played in three World Tour event finals in 2015 already, so they seem to be well on track pursuing an Olympic berth.
Another team that could have certainly enjoyed a more pleasant stay in California was Gibb-Patterson. The St. Petersburg Grand Slam winners were top-seeded in Long Beach but failed to make it through the preliminary Pool A. Defeats to the Brazilians Saymon-Guto Carvalhaes and the Canadians Binstock-Schachter left them at the bottom of the pool standings. The failure cost them the sixth position in the World Tour ranking which is now occupied by Herrera-Gavira.
For the first time since the World Tour appeared, USA will organize three events. The California Grand Slam was preceded by the St. Petersburg Grand Slam in the middle of June. Fort Lauderdale in Florida will feature the Tour’s Finals sponsored by Swatch at the beginning of October.