On how many occasions had Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova played Brazilians Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos without a win? Four? Five? Six? Graudina didn’t know. And, at any rate, what did the record matter, anyway?

“We were always so close to beating them so there was no pressure for us,” said Graudina, who had played Duda and Ana Patricia five times throughout her career heading into this weekend’s Paris Elite16. “It was like ‘If we lose, what does it matter?’ We came with an empty head.”

And they left with a win, their first over the top-seeded Brazilians, stunning Duda and Ana Patricia, 21-17, 11-21, 17-15. The victory sets up the Latvians to leave Paris with much more than one momentous match on the resume. Graudina and Samoilova are now in the finals, their first on the Beach Pro Tour since the season-opening Elite16 in Rosarito, Mexico. And, fittingly enough, they'll be playing the exact same team they did in Rosarito: the Netherlands’ Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam,

"The intensity for each point was insanely high," Graudina said of the semifinal. "That moment that Anastasija dug the ball so high for match point, it was such an important ball, I was just like ‘Please, set the ball.’ It was a very intense game. The Brazilians, they are unforgiving, if you make a mistake they will make you pay for it."

No payment was due on Saturday afternoon. And they weren’t the only team to get the proverbial monkey off their backs on Saturday afternoon in Roland Garros. Stam and Schoon also put an end to a string of six straight tournaments without a semifinal appearance, much less a medal. After beginning the year with three consecutive finals, Stam and Schoon cooled off, taking three fifths, a ninth, a – shudder – 25th, and another fifth, in Hamburg. Their seeding plummeted, from the top spot at the World Championships down to tenth this weekend in Paris, nearly falling into the qualifiers.

Rest assured, they’ll be safe from the qualifiers for quite a while now, with a pair of 21-17, 21-17 wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals over Zoe Verge-Depre and Esmee Bobner, and Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, respectively.


“It was the little details that we missed in those tournaments that kept us from getting into the semis, and for this tournament, we’re together again, and the performance behavior we have on court is a lot better,” Stam said. “We are pretty different people but we learned each other a lot better during the summer and that’s one of the reasons we’re here right now.”

It’s a familiar final for those who have been following the Beach Pro Tour this season. The first Elite16 on the schedule, in Rosarito, featured this very matchup, when Stam and Schoon emerged from the qualifier to march all the way to the gold medal match, where they swept Graudina and Samoilova, 21-14, 21-13. It has been a long six months since Mexico, however, and both are vastly different teams.

Graudina and Samoilova are, once again, European Champions, claiming the second such title in Munich, where they swept Stam and Schoon in the semifinals, this past August. Samoilova even has a different name than when they played Rosarito, taking the surname of her new husband, Mihails. Schoon and Stam have grown through their miniature rut this summer, coming out the other end better for it.

“We’ve fought so hard the last few weeks and it was so hard but I think we grew as a team and we’re really proud,” Schoon said. “Now we want gold.”

A gold in Paris would mark the second for the Dutch, while it would be the first Beach Pro Tour victory for Graudina and Samoilova.

“They’re a great team,” Samoilova said. “It will be an amazing game which we will enjoy.”