The main draw of the first Elite16 event of the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour season is set to begin on Thursday in Doha, Qatar, and the opening day of the main phase of the tournament is packed with exciting matches reuniting some of the best teams of the world.
Doha Elite16 main draw begins with exciting duels
Watch the 24 matches of the day live on Volleyball TV
Published 06:06, 01 Feb 2023
The venue at the Aspire Park sports complex will see each of the 32 teams – 16 men, 16 women – that will contend for the title in the Qatari capital in action on Thursday as the daily schedule features as many as 24 matches, with the first of them starting at 9:00 local time (6:00 UTC).
The Doha Elite16 event also carries extra weight as it’s the first tournament that can be used by teams to add points to their Olympic rankings targeting qualification for the Paris 2024 Games.
The opening match on the centre court is definitely one to watch as it will reunite two teams that stepped on to the podium at the exact same place on Sunday at the conclusion of the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals – Brazil’s Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa/Ana Patricia Ramos and the Netherlands’ Raisa Schoon/Katja Stam.
The Brazilian world champions won silver in the closing event of the Beach Pro Tour inaugural season while the Dutch Olympians were third. Seeded first in this week’s event, Duda and Ana Patricia played the Europeans only once last season, at the Rosarito Elite16, and fell in three sets.
Their encounter will be part of the Pool B schedule, which also features reigning European champions Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova of Latvia and Karla Borger/Sandra Ittlinger of Germany, who secured one of the four spots that were in play in Wednesday’s qualifier in Doha.
The men’s tournament will also see a duel between two duos that were on the podium of the 2022 Finals with reigning Olympic, World and Beach Pro Tour champions Anders Mol and Christian Sørum of Norway meeting Italians Paolo Nicolai and Samuele Cottafava at 11:00 local time (8:00 UTC).
The Beach Volley Vikings, who took gold last week, and the Italians, who won bronze, met in the semifinals of the Finals and featured in a dramatic three-set battle won by the Norwegians. Their encounter on Thursday will be the fourth between the two teams and, while Mol and Sørum won the first three, they were pushed to the tie-breaker in all of them.
Both teams are in Pool A, alongside reigning European champions David Åhman and Jonatan Hellvig of Sweden and Czech qualifiers Jan Dumek and Jiri Sedlak.
The women’s winners in the Finals, Americans Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes will have an interesting duel on the first day of the main draw in Doha. They will face the new Canadian team of Olympians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson, who will be making their first international appearance as partners at 19:00 local time (16:00 UTC).
The other two Pool B teams are Swiss Olympians Nina Brunner and Tanja Hüberli and Brazilians Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria Rodrigues, who advanced from the qualifier on Wednesday.
The home team of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed is also set for a big challenge on the first day of pool play in Doha. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists will face Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley at 20:00 local time (17:00 UTC).
The two teams faced each other in the Finals in the same phase of the tournament and the South Americans prevailed in straight sets.
Also part of Pool D are Italy's Alex Ranghieri/Adrian Carambula and Australia's Chris McHugh/Paul Burnett, two duos that advanced from the qualifier. The Australians defeated Hungarians Artur Hajos and Bence Streli 2-0 (21-14, 21-18) and Latvian Olympians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, also in two sets (21-18, 21-16), to progress to the main draw.
“Two wins, we couldn't have started the season in a better way,” McHugh reacted. “Paul played great today and it's good to be back on the court. We showed some really good progress throughout last year and it's continuing this year, which is really positive. Hopefully we can build a lot of momentum here in Doha to keep taking on the Olympic qualification.”
In Wednesday’s qualifier, Brazil’s Talita Antunes/Thamela Coradello and USA’s Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss were the other two teams to advance. The Americans had a familiar bracket, topping compatriots Toni Rodriguez and Savvy Simo 2-1 (21-14, 15-21, 15-11) in the first round and Megan Kraft and Emily Stockman in two sets (22-20, 21-19) in the second.
“I feel like facing other Americans has happened to us quite a bit in the qualifier,” Nuss reflected. “It’s crazy to think that we came all the way around the world to play our own country. We were very fortunate that we got to play in the Finals last week because it helped us a lot prepare for this one, which means a lot for Olympic qualification.”
On the men’s side, Brazilians Saymon Barbosa and Vinicius Freitas secured the fourth spot in the main draw in the qualifier. A fifth berth was opened with the withdrawal of Czech Olympians Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, which led to Spanish veterans Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira also moving forward as lucky losers - they lost to Saymon and Vinicius in the second round of the qualifier.
The main draw begins with pool play on Thursday and continues on Friday with the completion of the first phase of the tournament. Two elimination rounds will be played on Saturday involving the top three teams in each pool with the semifinals and medal matches ending the event on Sunday.