Van de Velde celebrates a point in the Dutch pair's opening match in Rome

The Beach Volleyball World Championships Rome 2022 are a key highlight of the sport’s calendar this year and most of the 96 teams currently competing at the Foro Italico spent months preparing for this moment.

Dutch pair Christiaan Varenhorst and Steven van de Velde couldn’t afford that luxury, but their short preparation didn’t stop them from starting the tournament with a fantastic two-set (23-21, 21-13) victory over second-seeded Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak of Poland on Friday.

· Watch all matches at the Rome 2022 World Championships live on Volleyball.tv.

Varenhorst and Van de Velde didn’t initially make the cut for the Beach Volleyball World Championships, but as the best-ranked team on the reserve list, they were called to replace a team from Ghana that withdrew.

They weren’t confirmed in Pool B until Thursday, but the 24-hour notice they had proved to be more than enough after their victory against the Poles, the only men to win multiple Beach Pro Tour events at the Challenge level so far.

“We’re so happy to be here,” Varenhorst, who took silver in the 2015 World Championship and finished fourth in 2017, said. “We were on the reserve list and unfortunately two teams had to withdraw, but we’re happy we’re able to participate. We were really looking forward to measuring ourselves against these teams and to have won the first match was truly amazing.”

Playing in his second World Championship, the 27-year-old Van de Velde made a big difference for his team in the match, producing an impressive seven blocks and 14 kills, while Varenhorst, a Rio 2016 Olympian, added nine kills, two blocks and two aces.


Varenhorst challenges Losiak with his block

The victory against the strong Polish pair will certainly give the Dutch a lot of confidence, but they still have two other massive challenges ahead of them in pool play, where they will also face Italians Alex Ranghieri and Daniele Lupo and Canadians Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing.

With six Olympians in it, Pool B can easily be considered one of the toughest in Rome, but after their opening-match victory, the Dutch just want to keep pushing.

“We didn’t hear the confirmation that we were in until yesterday in the afternoon, so preparation for this first match was a bit chaotic,” Van de Velde explained. “It’s a great start for us to defeat the top-seeded team in our pool. It’s a very difficult pool and we’ll be looking at one match at a time. We showed some progress in the Elite16 event in Jurmala last week and just want to continue on that rhythm.”

The Dutch will play the Italians, who also won their opening match against the Canadians, on Saturday. Earlier in the day, the Poles and Canadians will play a pivotal match for their futures in the tournament.

Fellow Dutch and 2013 world champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen also won their opening match in Rome. The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallists didn’t give a chance to Moroccan Olympian Mohamed Abicha and his partner Soufiane El Gharouti, winning their Pool C encounter in straight sets (21-11, 21-9).

Tokyo bronze medallists Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan of Qatar were also up to a positive debut in Pool D, where they topped Paraguayans Roger Battilana and Gonzalo Melgarejo in two sets (21-13, 21-12). The same was true for Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner in Pool F, as the Czechs cruised forward to sweep (21-15, 21-12) Mozambique’s Ainadino Martinho and Jorge Monjane.


Schweiner hits against Martinho's block

The winners of the Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge, Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley had a more challenging start, but were still able to start their campaign with a win after they topped Iranians Bahman Salemi and Arash Vakili in the tie-breaker (19-21, 21-14, 15-10) in Pool E.

Following an opening day with just 12 matches, the men’s tournament will have a busy day on Sunday, when 24 matches are scheduled and the final 24 teams entered in the event will debut. Pool play concludes on Monday, when the 28 teams guaranteed a place in the Round of 32 and the eight that will have to go through the lucky loser round will be determined.