Aleksandar Atanasijevic

Aleksandar Atanasijevic fired as many as six blistering aces on Monday, as Serbia shut out Puerto Rico to register their second straight-set win in Pool A of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 in Katowice.

The European team produced a hard-fought 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-16) victory to top the current pool standings and practically secure a spot in the Round of 16. If Monday’s other match in the pool, between Ukraine and Tunisia (20:30 local time, 18:30 GMT), produces any result different to 3-0 Ukraine’s way, the Serbs will have mathematically booked their ticket to the Round of 16.

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As the match progressed, Atanasijevic upgraded the number of aces he delivered in each set and his team’s domination became more and more convincing. His first serving point gave Serbia a 15-12 lead in the first set in the middle of a three-point run, just after Puerto Rico had come back to within one in the score. Eventually the set was resolved narrowly in overtime.

The 30-year-old star opposite aced twice in set two, for 6-3 again to crown a three-point run with which the team broke away, and for 17-12. This time, the Serbs won the set by a four-point margin.

Atanasijevic practically decided the match early into the third set, when he hammered three aces (5-2, 7-2, 9-2) within a six-point rotation that gave Serbia a solid lead, which they eventually extended to an emphatic 25-16 close.

While these were the only three points the 2.00m-tall spiker scored in the third set, he added five kills in offence and a stuff block to his tally during the first two sets to finish with 12 points as Serbia’s best scorer of the match. Outside hitter Marko Ivovic added another 11 points, while Puerto Rico’s 19-year-old opposite Klistan Lawrence Vidal produced the match high of 16 points.

“We have good individual players who can resolve matches. So sometimes Lisinac, sometimes Podrascanin, sometimes Kovacevic serve well. Tonight we needed to make them play high ball, so we can have more opportunities to block. And we did it,” Atanasijevic said after the game. “I am really happy for this win. It was a really important match for us. We knew that we cannot relax against a strong team like Puerto Rico. We had to play at our maximum level and managed to win 3-0. It is important for us to have as good a position as possible before our next game against Tunisia in two days. I hope that we can win by 3-0 again.”

In his team’s first match of the competition, Atanasijevic scored another two aces against Ukraine. His new tournament total of eight puts him in the lead of the best servers chart, two aces clear of Dutch ace master Nimir Abdel-Aziz.

With the national team of Serbia, Atanasijevic won gold at the 2016 FIVB Volleyball World League (in addition to a 2015 silver and a 2010 bronze) and two CEV European Championship trophies in 2011 and 2019 (in addition to the two bronze medals in 2013 and 2017). He was also named Best Opposite on the EuroVolley 2019 and the 2015 World League Dream Teams, among many other individual and team achievements.