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Mariafe & Clancy celebrate during their last Beach Pro Tour appearance in Espinho

Australian beach volleyball stars Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar, two-time Olympians and Tokyo 2020 silver medallists, are about to hit the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour again as it visits their home country for an Elite16 tournament in Torquay. With Tuesday’s qualifications in both genders now over and the main draw line-ups complete, bracket leaders Clancy and Mariafe know the names of all their opponents in women’s Pool A.

The 16 main draw teams in each gender are split into four round-robin pools of four. Representatives of 17 different countries are set to battle it out for their slice of the USD 300,000 prize pie.

· Watch all matches at the Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event in Torquay live on Volleyball TV.

The first time the Australian duo topped a Beach Pro Tour podium was at the Espinho Challenge back in July, but it was also the last time they appeared on the Tour. Returning after a long absence, Clancy and Mariafe are set to meet Japan’s Akiko Hasegawa and Yurika Sakaguchi in their first Pool A match at 20:00 local time (09:00 UTC) on Wednesday. At the same time, eighth-seeded Americans Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft will meet Jagoda Gruszczynska and Aleksandra Wachowicz in the other Pool A match. The Polish team progressed from Tuesday’s qualifiers after tough wins over Canada’s Amanda Harnett and Marie-Alex Belanger in straight sets and over the Czech Republic’s Helena Havelkova and Marketa Slukova in three.

Another American team, newly reunited Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng, are seeded second in the women’s main draw and will play in Pool B. After winning the Challenge event in Torquay last week, they will meet two Chinese pairs on Wednesday – first Zeng Jinjin and Wang Xinxin, then seventh-seeded Xia Xinyi and Lin MeiMei. Hughes and Cheng’s last pool match will be on Thursday against the pairing of Georgia Johnson and 19-year-old Jasmine Fleming. The Australians teamed up before the double-header in Torquay. They finished fifth last week at the Challenge event, and in the first Elite16 tournament for either of them, they advanced to the main draw after shutting out Japan’s Megumi Murakami and Sakurako Fujii, and coming back from a set down to defeat China’s Zhu Lingdi and Wang Fan.

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Australia’s Johnson & Fleming celebrate in their first Elite16 tournament

Third-seeded Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss of the United States, who have collected one Futures and one Challenger gold on the Beach Pro Tour, will try to earn their first Elite16 medal as they start their Torquay campaign in Pool C. They will be in the company of New Zealand’s Shaunna Polley and Alice Zeimann, sixth-seeded Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee and Taravadee Naraphornrapat of Thailand and last week’s Challenge silver medallists Yuan Lvwen and Dong Jie. At their first Elite16 participation, the Chinese pair produced qualification victories over two Australian duos – first Kayla Mears and Jana Milutinovic, and then Brittany Kendall and Caitlin Bettenay.

The women’s main draw will get underway at 11:00 local time (00:00 UTC) on Wednesday with the first-leg matches in Pool D. Fourth-seeded Germans Isabel Schneider and Julia Sude, who recently won the second Challenge tournament in Dubai, will meet Australia’s Alisha Stevens and Nicole Laird on centre court, while fifth-seeded Americans Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles make their Beach Pro Tour debut as a duo on court 2 against Tjasa Kotnik and Tajda Lovsin. The Slovenian team had to work hard in three sets to overcome bottom-seeded Aussies Brianna Mears and Tara Phillips in the first qualification round, but then cruised to an emphatic blowout of Vanuatu’s Majabelle Lawac and Sherysyn Toko.

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Tjasa Kotnik in action

The Torquay centre court will actually open for main draw business two hours earlier, at 09:00 local time (22:00 UTC on Tuesday), with a men’s Pool D match between last week’s Challenge winners Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi of Italy, seeded fourth this week, and Spain’s Javier Huerta and Alejandro Huerta. The other Italian team, last week’s silver medallists Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri are also in this pool and will start their campaign with a game against France’s Julien Lyneel and Remi Bassereau, who achieved straight-set victories over Australia’s Matthew Abela and Tim Gregory and Serbia’s Lazar Kolaric and Djordje Klasnic in the qualifiers.

Torquay Challenge bronze medallists Christopher McHugh and Paul Burnett of Australia will lead the men’s bracket again. They will have Switzerland’s Quentin Metral and Yves Haussener, eighth-seeded Americans Paul Lotman and Miles Evans, and Austrian qualifiers Mathias Seiser and Moritz Kindl as rivals in Pool A. For 37-year-old Lotman, it will be only the third world-level tournament of his career. He made his debut as Taylor Crabb’s partner at the two Dubai Challenge events last month and claimed bronze at the second. Seiser and Kindl, whose Elite16 debut was in Tuesday’s qualifications, made it to the main draw after a 2-1 comeback victory over the Czech Republic’s Jan Dumek and Jiri Sedlak and a shutout of French teens Arthur Canet and Teo Rotar.

Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer are back on Tour for the first time after claiming their first medal with a third place at the Agadir Challenge in July. The Swiss duo are seeded second in Torquay and will compete in Pool B with seventh-seeded Australians Thomas Hodges and Zachery Schubert, France’s Calvin Aye and Quincy Aye, and Israel’s Netanel Ohana and Eylon Elazar. The latter made it to their first-ever Elite16 main draw after a straight-set win over Australia’s Joshua Howat and Jack Pearse and a 2-1 upset of Austria’s Christoph Dressler and Maximilian Trummer.

Pool C is headed by seed three Mathias Berntsen and Hendrik Mol of Norway. Sixth-seeded Frenchmen Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat, Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis of Australia and qualifiers Joaquin Bello and Javier Bello of England are the other three teams in the pool. After sweeping Aussies Lucas Josefsen and Ben Hood in their first match of the qualifiers, the Bellos had a hard-fought all-English encounter with Issa Batrane and Frederick Bialokoz, which they won by a narrow 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 17-15).

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Action in the all-English duel between the Bello brothers and Batrane & Bialokoz