Itapema, the host city of this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event, the second of the season, first became a part of the beach volleyball calendar in 2017, and no one has had more success playing in the Brazilian city than Andre Loyola.
‘Mr. Itapema’ Andre looking for another medal
The Brazilian has had a lot of success playing in the city that will host this week’s Beach Pro Tour event
Published 05:00, 15 Apr 2022
A 2017 world champion, the 27-year-old Andre has developed a tradition of winning at the Meia Praia Beach, one that he hopes will continue at the tournament that will run from Thursday to Sunday in Itapema.
Since 2017, Andre has played at three Brazilian Tour and three FIVB World Tour events in Itapema and only once left the city empty-handed. Successes include World Tour victories in 2018 and 2021 and a triumph on the Brazilian Tour in 2017.
“Itapema has become a very special place in my career,” he told Volleyball World. “Since 2017, I’ve stepped on the podium pretty much every time I’ve played there. It definitely feels different when I play in Itapema and I can tell it gives me more confidence that I can win a medal. Everything is very familiar to me there and I feel very comfortable on the court.”
His victory last November, at the final World Tour event which was held in Itapema, is one that brings Andre some of his best memories. He and partner George Wanderley were impeccable all week, dropping just one set in their six matches and taking the title in an all-Brazilian gold medal match against Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima that was watched by a packed centre court.
“I entered last year’s tournament with a good energy because I had already won events on the Brazilian Tour and the World Tour there,” he recalled. “But to do it with George was really special. The venue is amazing and I always enjoy playing there. We were really confident entering the tournament and played really well all week. Renato and Vitor are our training partners and to play them in the final made it even more remarkable.”
Andre and George, who took second in a Brazilian Tour event in Itapema two weeks ago, will now try to win the first Beach Pro Tour tournament held in their home country.
One of the four Brazilian teams guaranteed a place in the main draw, which starts on Friday, the pair will, for the first time since becoming partners, enter an international tournament as the top-seeded team.
“We’re very aware of what being the top-ranked team in an event means,” Andre reflected. “We’ve been in that position on the Brazilian Tour and it’s something we always talk about. We think it’s a privilege to be in that position and I believe we do a good job of dealing with the extra pressure. We’re ready for it and we hope we can win gold again.”
The event in Itapema will be just the third the two play in 2022. Besides the Brazilian Tour event at which they finished second, Andre and George also appeared at the Beach Pro Tour Rosarito Elite16 tournament last month, where they were eliminated by reigning Olympic champions Anders Mol and Christian Sorum of Norway in a closely-contested quarterfinal, after having won their three pool matches.
Their performances in both tournaments encourages Andre to believe his team is ready to fight for the title in Itapema.
“We hadn’t played in quite some time and were a little anxious because of that, but we got to start the season very well,” he commented. “We did a great job in the pre-season and I think it showed in how well we got to play at these two events as we played good matches against some great teams. We’re looking forward to playing more now that the season is starting to pick up.”