Eight years after Pablo Herrera and Raul Mesa won a historic first European crown in Moscow, a Spanish team has again grabbed the CEV title. Ameliorating their bronze finish from Sochi, Russia, in 2009, Herrera and his partner Adrian Gavira came back on international stage with a scream and were clearly the most constant team throughout the week in Klagenfurt.
Perhaps it comes as a surprise to many that the seventh-seeded Spaniards made it all the day to Sunday’s final. Depending on Herrera’s vast experience and energized after the long rest due to injuries, the new European champions impressed on a number of occasions at the latest World Tour events. The final, lost to Dalhausser-Rosenthal, they reached in Long Beach, California, however, acted as an indicator that they are back and kicking. In the company of several potential title candidates Herrera-Gavira appeared unyielding and extremely cold-blooded in key moments – qualities to often guarantee success in beach volleyball, and dropped only a set in their seven-match campaign in the Austrian Alps.
The match that could have shattered Herrera-Gavira’s champion ambitions was the noon semifinal against Nicolai-Lupo. Having trailed 3 points at the end of the first set, the Spaniards targeted Daniele Lupo and later won the opener by 25-23. The Italians came back victorious in the second set and made the 2004 Athens silver medalist Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira struggle till the very end. A 15-13 tie-break win for the Spanish couple saw them best Nicolai-Lupo for a second week in a row after their Long Beach encounter.
The third-place match opposed the Italians’ chances of a first championship medal in 17 years to Poland’s first ever medal hopes, represented by Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel. With a little time left to recover after the semifinal disappointment, Nicolai-Lupo could not match their Polish opposition and Fijalek-Prudel scored a straight-set 22-20, 21-16 win that brought a historic first set of medals for their country.
“It is something special to play here in Klagenfurt and I would like to thank the fans for the great ambiance they have created right from the start of the competition. Without their help it would be impossible to play under these weather conditions” Prudel said while addressing the 8000 fans who had joined the very last act of the championship.
The top-seeded Latvians Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs deservedly reached the last game of the schedule after another tie-break win in the semis; theirs was against Fijalek-Prudel. We’ve had reports already about the emphatic season Smedins-Samoilovs have been enjoying, they fully gained the right to challenge Herrera-Gavira for the title in Klagenfurt despite a preliminary pool upset versus Horrem-Eithun from Norway. Quite honestly, I was ready to bet my money on a Latvian triumph this past weekend for two main reasons, one being their recent performance, the other – the hour more rest they had had prior to the first final game serve. An advantage that was also linked to their superior stamina and physical preparation.
Well, this is why sports and beach volleyball in particular are such a great tool to refute theories. We can actually say that Spanish experience dominated over Latvian youth in Klagenfurt. There was drama, there were great rallies, there was pressure, but there was no tie-break and two sets were enough to crown the new European kings. 21-19, 21-17 marked Spain’s second title in a year with a World Championship also dominated by Europe.
The disappointment in Klagenfurt came from Germany and the host nation Austria. Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst, ranked fourth, had high hopes of satisfying the enthusiastic domestic fans. However, Doppler’s injury prevented the Austrians from competing normally and they were, thus, forced to forfeit their Round 1 elimination game against the Swiss Gerson-Prawdzic, much to the disenchantment of the tribunes. Meanwhile, the defending champion nations Germany set false expectations on its newly formed duos. Six fellow countrymen of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, forming a total of three teams, made it to the Klagenfurt quarterfinals. Erdmann-Matysik were favoured to take a medal, but the sensations Flüggen-Walkenhorst and Dollinger-Windscheif were also granted chances on Saturday afternoon. Notwithstanding, none of the Germans made it to the game on Sunday.
The new World champions Breuwer-Meeuwsen from The Netherlands, whose country will host the next World Champs in 2015 in The Hague, also disappointed their fans. They lost their Round 2 knock-out match against Erdmann-Matysik.
As curtains fall in Klagenfurt, the CEV President Andre Meyer revealed that next year’s host of the annual continental championship will be another symbolic venue, namely the organizer of the 2011 World Championships and Italian capital Rome and its Foro Italico complex.