Sochi, Russia, September 11, 2015 – Francisco Tomas and Cesar Menendez Ortega made it out of the pool at the FIVB World Tour Sochi Open with only one win, but on Friday they hit form with two straight wins in the knockout rounds to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in their career.
The Spanish team, seeded 22nd, first booked a 2-0 (21-16, 21-10) win over England’s Chris Gregory and Jake Sheaf (15th). And in the afternoon they defeated Latvian qualifiers Toms Smedins and Ruslans Sorokins (23rd) 2-0 (22-20, 21-18).
Tomas (26) and Menendez Ortego (23) played very focussed and in control, using a lot of angle shots to avoid the big Latvian block. The key in winning the two matches was their block-defence, Tomas said.
“We are very happy. We began the tournament with two losses. The first match against England was difficult but we played very good. And now against Latvia we were very focussed and played very good in block-defence and that got us the match.”
They have never before reached the last eight on the World Tour. Tomas and Menendez Ortego teamed up in 2010 to place fifth at the CEV U23 and since then tried to play on the World Tour as much as they could. But so far they only managed to get into four other Opens with 9th place in Xiamen last year being their best result.
“It is difficult to get into the World Tour events, especially this year”, Tomas said. “This is the pre-Olympic year, all teams are preparing for Rio. We knew this would be a difficult year and we certainly didn’t expect to get this far, but we just took it match-by-match.”
On Saturday the Spanish will play their idols, USA’s Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, for a spot in the semifinals.
A dream come true, said Tomas. Earlier on Friday they had met the third seeded Americans and took ‘fan’ pictures with them.
Menendez Ortego: “This is really a present. We always see them play on Laola and tomorrow we have the honour to play against them. And we are going to enjoy that as much as we can.”
As pool winners Dalhausser and Lucena had to play only one match, a 2-0 (21-13, 21-15) over Slovakia’s Igor Horvath and Matej Hukel, to advance to the quarterfinals.Russia knocks out Russia
First seeded Russians and pool winners Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov also reached the last eight, after their opponents in the second round, fellow Russians Dmitri Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev, sustained an injury during the match. In the quarterfinal they will play another Russian team, Youth Olympic champions Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Yarzutkin, who booked two wins over Poland and Latvia on Friday.
Second ranked Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins were challenged by Aliaksandr Dziadkou and Aliaksandr Kavalenka from Belarus. The Latvians, who won the Rio Open last week, lost the first set, but came back to win 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 15-11). Their opponents in the quarterfinals are Michal Kadziola and Jakub Szalankiewicz. The Polish pool winners defeated Austria’s Tobias Winter and Lorenz Petutschnig 2-0 (21-16, 21-10) in the second round.
The fourth quarterfinal features Kazachstan’s Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko, who booked wins over Greece and Poland, and fourth seeded Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai from Italy.
The Italians knocked out Russian team Ruslan Bykanov and Maksim Hudyakov (21-17, 21-12). Nicolai was especially pleased with their second set. “We were more stable during our side-outs. We played well and they did not start as good as in the first set, so we took a lot of points in the first part of the set. And then it’s easy when you are eight points ahead.”
Lupo and Nicolai lost their opening match this tournament against Russian qualifiers Likholetov and Leshukov, but are hitting form towards the end of the tournament.
Nicolai: “The physical form is not perfect, because it’s the end of the season. But our minds are focussed on this tournament because this is probably our last tournament of this year. So we are very focussed and want to finish the best that we can.”
“We are in the top five”, he said about their medal chances. “In any tournament that means that you have to play very well to win the game. But we are ready to do better than this.”