BPT Challenge Espinho - Men Main draw - PORvsDEN_06

Abell makes a defensive effort during the match against the Portuguese

Jacob Brink and Kristoffer Abell were yet to win a match in the inaugural season of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour until last week. The Danish team's fortunes started to change at the Lecce Futures and things continue to move in the right direction for the Europeans this week in Espinho, Portugal, where they’re in position to make a deep run in the Challenge tournament that is taking place at the Praia da Baia.

The 23-year-old Brinck and the 27-year-old Abell are one of the six men’s teams that won their pools on Friday, the first day of the main draw in Portugal, and are guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16 of the event.

· Watch all the matches at the Espinho Challenge live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

Partners since last summer, the Danish had a difficult start to their 2022 season, losing their first qualifier matches in the Tlaxcala and Kuşadası Challenges and the Rosarito Elite16. After going into the seventh month of the year without a single win, they returned to the Beach Pro Tour last week, in a Futures event in Lecce, Italy.

That tournament also started with a defeat for Brinck and Abell, but since they started it in the main draw, they had a chance to bounce back, which they did, finding their way to the podium and winning the bronze medal. Their good run continues this week in Espinho as, after winning both their qualifier matches on Thursday, the two also went undefeated to win Pool F.

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Abell and Brinck pose after their fourth victory in Espinho

“It’s great that we managed to come out as pool winners,” Abell reacted. “To be honest, we weren’t expecting that, but we’re very happy. It’s been pretty much about survival for us with the heat and the deep sand. It’s really exhausting to play, especially for me as a blocker. But it’s been great so far and we’re enjoying it.”

The Danish pair opened the main draw at the Praia da Baia with a hard-fought, three-set (21-15, 13-21, 15-10) victory against the home team of Hugo Campos and Joao Pedrosa and they followed that up with a sweep (24-22, 21-19) of Ukrainians and fellow qualifiers Sergiy Popvoc and Eduard Reznik to finish in the first place.

Brinck/Abell vs. Popov/Reznik - Match Highlights

After that result, the Europeans, who lost their first four matches in the season and went winless in three consecutive events, have now won seven of their last eight international matches and are guaranteed a top-ten finish in Portugal.

“A perfect Saturday for us would be to win two more matches and to make it to the semifinals,” Brinck added. “But we’re looking at one match at a time. I feel like we’re getting in a good rhythm and doing better with the deep sand and the wind, so hopefully we’ll stand here on Saturday with two more victories.”

European teams were successful on the first day of the men’s tournament, with duos from the continent winning five of the six men's pools. Dutch pair Christiaan Varenhorst and Steve van de Velde, who took bronze at last week’s Gstaad Elite16, topped Pool A with their straight-set (23-21, 21-18) win over Latvian veterans Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins.

Varenhorst/van de Velde vs. Samoilovs/Smedins - Match Highlights

In Pool B, the top team was composed of Italian Olympians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, who defeated Dutch pair Leon Luini and Ruben Penninga in two sets (21-15, 24-22). Swiss Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer upset Poles Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak in the tie-breaker (12-21, 21-12, 15-13) to finish at the top of Pool C.

The Pool E winners were Austrians Alexander Horst and Julian Horl, who dominated Czechs Vaclav Bercik and Matyas Dzavoronok to a 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) win. The only non-European team to finish at the top was Andy Benesh and Miles Evans, who triumphed in Pool D with their straight-set (21-17, 21-16) victory against Poles Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol.

The men’s tournament continues in Espinho on Saturday with the Round of 18, the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals. The semifinals and medal matches will be played on Sunday, the last day of the competition at the Praia da Baia.