Spring is still a taboo in some parts of the world these days. Regardless of weather’s whims though the FIVB 2013 World Tour is set to start next week at the shores of China. Warm but moderately drizzly, Fuzhou will make its World Tour debut launching a revolutionary global campaign destined to bring beach volleyball across all continents.
The record-breaking length of the 2013 season offers quite some firsts. Apart from many internal player rotations and career endings, for the first time the World Tour ranking will be based only on Grand Slams, meaning that the 2013 champions will score points on eleven prime events – ten Grand Slams and the 2013 World Championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland. Thus, the eight Opens will provide a chance for teams to gear up, practice before Grand Slams and earn some money without affecting their World Tour rank. The ones to gain the most of these Opens will undoubtedly be local teams and duos with fewer ranking points as they might take advantage of favourites missing Opens for various reasons. Such will surely be the case with the Anapa Open in Russia which is set to take place simultaneously with the Long Beach Grand Slam in the USA.
Also for the first time since I started following the World Tour more than ten years ago I see so many newly formed pairings. Presenting them all here within a single report will be a causa perduta. Instead we will focus on those teams that are most likely to leave a mark throughout this spring, summer and autumn, discussing, of course, duos that extended their partnership just as well.
The news for the the chronic injury of Jonas Reckermann must have given a bitter taste chiefly to his partner Julius Brink. The reigning Olympic champions had their swan song in London and now it would be left to the 26-year-old Sebastian Fuchs, a 2003 Youth Beach Volleyball champion from Pattaya, Thailand, to fill in Reckermann’s shoes.
European medal hopes will be kept up by the Italians Nicolai-Lupo, the Poles Fijalek-Prudel and several newly formed teams whose team chemistry will be tested pretty soon. The Latvian Olympic bronze medalists Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins split up and joined respectively Janis Peda and Aleksandrs Samoilovs. Together with Ruslans Sorokins and Toms Smedins Latvia maintain medal chances less than a year after the country’s greatest beach volleyball achievement.
Nummerdor-Schuil might’ve called it a day, but the Netherlands has new names rising on the horizon to come into the legacy of the London semifinalists. Two of the tallest couples on the Tour Brouwer-Meeuwsen and Stiekema-Varenhorst have the time on their side in the quest for ranking points. The young Poles Kadziola-Szalankiewicz added to the promising Russians Semenov-Koshkarev, who rejoin to their partnership after Yaroslav Koshkarev’s pre-Olympic injury, wind up an impressive list of potential Europeans that will use any chance to oppose to the Brazilian and American powerhouses.
The only semifinalists from the 2012 Olympics that you will competing together in 2013 are the eternal Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti. The Brazilians, however, will miss the first Open of the season as Alison injured his little finger during a practice – much to repeat his 2012 pre-season forearm injury that prevented the reigning World champions from taking place in last year’s Tour opener. Another legend, Ricardo Alex Costa Santos, will pair up with the defender Alvaro Filho. Pedro Salgado formed a team with Bruno Oscar Schmidt, whereas Victor Felipe and Evandro Goncalves will be looking for their place under the sun.
To me, the most stellar combination this year happened in the USA. After Todd Rogers announced he will take it easy with the World Tour participations, his partner Phil Dalhausser teamed up with the best defender and last year’s World Tour winner Sean Rosenthal. This is a team to watch! Rogers and his new partner Ryan Doherty, a professional baseball player till recently, still signed up for the Fuzhou Open, but they are unlikely to appear on many events. Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson will be US’s second-best pair after Fuerbringer-Lucena ceased their partnership due to Matt Fuerbringer’s acceptance to assist his friend and national team indoor head coach John Speraw. As a reigning World Tour winner nevertheless, Gibb is unlikely to have an anonymous year, but the question for him and Patterson is whether they can keep up with the tempo of their younger opponents and participate regularly in the Tour.
The list of newly formed teams normally goes on with China, Spain, Austria, France and Italy, but we will get back to them on the course of the Tour. Neglecting the chances of Gibb-Rosenthal a year ago, I will be more conservative with my expectations for 2013. At the start of a new Olympic cycle, however, we should be ready to see some new lads appearing more often on the medal platform.