Fuzhou, China, April 21, 2015 – Martins Plavins/Hermans Egleskalns from Latvia defeat top seeded qualifiers for a spot in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Fuzhou Open 2015. The season opening men’s qualification tournament on April 21 also opened the Olympic qualification window for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
In its third consecutive year, the FIVB Fuzhou Open is the first double-gender FIVB Open event of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar with a prize purse of $150,000.
Martins Plavins is ready for another year on the FIVB World Tour and begins 2015 with two wins to progress into the Fuzhou Open main draw. The 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist hits the year with brand new partner Hermans Egleskalns playing in his first ever senior level FIVB tournament.
The Latvians beat Spain’s Francisco Tomás/César Menéndez Ortego in the first round of qualification 2-0 (21-15, 21-18), before meeting top seeded qualifiers Canada’s Sam Pedlow/Grant O'Gorman.
The first set saw the introduction of Egleskalns left arm, a powerful addition to the Latvian team, but otherwise there was no clear difference between the two teams. Pedlow/O’Gorman closed out the first 22-20.
Canada produced some industrious play in the second, while Latvia remained incredibly calm throughout. With Egleskalns’ left arm playing its part, Plavins/Egleskalns pulled back to take the second set 21-15. Big hits with a number of errors from both teams racked up the points in the third set and it was an Egleskalns serve followed by a long rally brought to a close by Plavins down the line to end the match 2-1 (20-22, 21-15, 15-13).
“It is our first tournament and my partner has only been practicing from this year January in beach volleyball so we are very happy and glad that we made it to the main draw and we will have at least three more games.
The match was really hard, they played really good. I’m a little surprised that we played so good and that’s why we won,” said Plavins.
“I felt more free than the first match and I’m happy that we can stay and play more. To get that experience is really important for me,” said Egleskalns.
Plavins has been playing on the world scene for over ten years, but is ready to learn from his new partner and excited about their new team.
“It’s great, I like that my new partner is a real professional that works not only on the court but outside the court to prevent injuries, to work on technique and it makes me also work harder every day so I hope that I will improve thanks to him,” said Plavins.
“It’s amazing playing with Plavins, it’s great, he’s a great defender. I have to learn to block a little bit better and we’ll be good,” said Egleskalns.
“I don’t know how it will be tomorrow against the main draw guys, but for us every game is important to improve and to have more experience and to feel each other on the court,” said Plavins. Kovatsch/Kissling aim for semis
Mats Kovatsch/Jonas Kissling from Switzerland defeated Neilton Moises Santos Merces/Iaroslav Rudykh from Azerbaijan in the first round of qualification 2-0 (21-14, 21-16).
The Swiss pair then met Bahman Salemiinjehboroun/Rahman Raoufi from Iran in the second round in a challenging face up. A Kovatsch block ended the first set 21-16, but the second set would not run as smoothly with a relentless performance from B. Salemi/R.Raoufi.
Strong blocking by B. Salemi along with accurate Iranian serving, the Swiss pair was placed on their back foot and as the pressure began to show on both sides with a number of unforced errors the score lay at 21-21. A long rally and spirited Iranian play ended the second set (24-26).
The third set saw intelligent play from both sides, but it was Kovatsch/Kissling who regained their form at 10-10 closing the match 2-1 (21-16, 24-26, 15-11) and earning a spot in the main draw.
“I think it was a great match for the public, but we didn’t play our best volleyball. We had never seen the team before, it was a new team so it’s always difficult to find the solutions against them. I think they played pretty good, but in the end we luckily won,” said Kovatsch.
“We feel pretty good, it’s always if you travel so long to China, spend a lot of money and then if we have to go home after two games, it’s not really cool, so we have a big relief now,” said Kissling.
Kovatsch/Kissling are in Fuzhou for a second time and have high hopes for the tournament.
“We will try to get better than last year and last year we made fifth place so our goal is to go to the semis,” said Kovatsch.
“Last year was our first tournament as a new team together and that was best result we ever had on the world tour, so we really like it here. We’re comfortable with the Chinese people, we really like it, they’re always smiling and cheering so it’s really nice to play here,” said Kissling.
China’s Peng Gao/Yang Li were knocked out of the qualification leaving local representation in the main draw to Jiaxin Wu/Jian Li and Cheng Chen/Cong Yang.
The Fuzhou Open is held at the purpose built venue in the city’s Mianjiang Riverside Park. China has hosted a total of 49 FIVB World Tour events and the second Chinese stop on the 2015 calendar will be the double-gender event FIVB Xiamen Open scheduled for September 22 to 27.
The gold medal teams in each gender at the FIVB Fuzhou Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500. The men’s medal matches will be held on Saturday and the women’s medal matches will be held on Sunday.