Karla Borger and Julia Sude had a difficult season, but all’s well that ends well. They reached the gold medal match of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Cagliari, their last event in 2021, and this by all means is their best result this year.

“It’s really emotional for us to end the season with a final. We had a pretty bad start. We were even surprised to qualify for this event. But we are in the final and we are really happy!” Sude told Volleyball World as the Germans emerged victorious from their semifinal encounter with Russia’s Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina.

In 2021, before the Olympic Games this summer, the pairing of 32-year-old defender Karla Borger and 34-year-old blocker Julia Sude played at six World Tour events and the best result they achieved was a fifth place at one of the Cancun tournaments.

In Tokyo, they were quite disappointed to lose all three of their matches and leave the competition right after the pool stage.

However, in their next competition, the CEV European Championship in Vienna, Borger and Sude redeemed themselves with a prestigious continental bronze. And now, at their last tournament of the season, the World Tour Finals, the Germans did even better, securing at least a silver medal finish.

“We are happy that back in 2019 we already had a good position in the Olympic ranking, so we could focus on different things during this season. It showed in our results. It was a little bit unexpected that we qualified for the World Tour Finals and we didn’t really plan it,” said Sude. “We are really happy that now we have the best result of the season.”

The tournament in Cagliari itself did not start so well for Karla and Julia. In a rollercoaster pool campaign, they won the first set against Switzerland’s Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli only to lose the match in three. Then, they bounced back with a three-set upset of Olympic champs April Ross and Alix Klineman, but followed that up losing in straight sets to Makroguzova and Kholomina. Defeating Italian wild cards Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi in their last match of the pool, the Germans narrowly made it to the next round on point ratio.

“Everything right now is a bonus for us, so we are super happy to be here and to play against the best of the world. We have 10 of the best teams here and it’s an amazing tournament. Our first aim was to survive the pool and that one we can now cross,” Karla Borger said at that moment. “But it’s not over. Now the elimination rounds start and it’s always fun to play, because there is much more pressure than before. We like it here, we love to play and it’s the last tournament, so we can put everything in.”

Julia Sude in offence

Julia Sude in offence

To turn the pressure up a notch, they were reminded that Germany won three of the previous five editions of the World Tour Finals.

“I never thought about it. We arrived here, happy to participate, and one aim was to have a lot of fun, to play our beach volleyball, our style…” said Karla. “The wind here makes it interesting. We love to play in the wind and figure out which tactics work well against which team. It’s fun for us!”

“We really try to focus on ourselves. It’s another highlight of the season, the last tournament, and we really try to enjoy it,” added Julia.

And they certainly enjoyed knocking out two of the best teams in the world, number-one-ranked Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa and number-three-ranked Russians Makroguzova and Kholomina, in Saturday’s playoffs to qualify for Sunday’s final.

“Especially at the end of the season, everybody is looking forward to having some time off to rest and get some holidays. After the Olympics, we had the European Championship, the German Championship and then the preparation for this event. As you can imagine, the longer the season is going, every warm-up, every single practice is on top... It’s time for a timeout and a break. It makes it even cooler for us to make it this far in the tournament,” said Borger.

The German pair will skip the Itapema 4-star event in November, so Cagliari really is the last tournament of the year for them.

“I have some basic military training in November, so we cannot play at Itapema,” Sude explained. “But we need some rest. We had a long preparation before the Olympics as well and it’s time to rest body and mind a little bit before starting the next three years.”

“I would divide it in two parts, before and after the Olympics,” said Borger, when asked to evaluate the team’s performance during the outgoing season. “I will not talk about the phase before the Olympics. That period we don’t remember! After the Olympics it was so much fun to play together. Everything we love to do in beach volleyball, we are doing it right now. We also did so much besides the sports. So I would give this phase an eight on a scale of zero to 10, because I am really happy about it. We will never reach 10, because as an athlete you are never completely happy with everything.”

Karla Borger in defence

Karla Borger in defence

Looking forward to the future, Karla also commented on the new Beach Pro Tour, announced on the premises of the World Tour Finals in Sardinia on Saturday.

“It’s great if you are in the top tier, the Elite16. It will be fun, because you are safe to play against strong teams and earn enough money for probably a long term,” she said. “But if you are not there and you have to fight for getting in, it will probably be pretty hard. But we will see how the Tour develops in the next years and I hope that if we see that something is not going the way we expect to make the sport bigger we will immediately change it. Right now everything looks great and I think it can work the way it is planned. It has good potential, but we have to stay alert and I hope we will be honest about it and quickly change it, if something is not going in the right direction.”