Yokohama, Japan, July 21, 2015 – Top seeded qualifiers Nicholas Lucena/Theodore Brunner (USA) gain victory on opening day of the FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam and are safely into the main draw. The double gender $800,000 FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam marks the first time both men and women have competed together in a FIVB World Tour event in Japan.
Lucena/Brunner faced Canada’s Sam Pedlow/Grant O’Groman in their only match of the day under hot and humid conditions in the harbour city of Yokohama. It was never going to be an easy win against the strong Canadian team, but USA held on for the win 2-0 (21-18, 25-23).Digging deep
Lucena/Brunner claimed bronze in St. Petersburg Grand Slam this year before going all the way to the bronze medal match at the World Championships in the Netherlands, just missing out on the medal to Pedro Soldberg/Evandro. For a chance at another final four, the USA of course needed to first secure their spot in the main draw.
In the first set against Pedlow/O’Groman, Lucena/Brunner held their strength to close the set in their favour 21-18, but the second set proved more of a challenge. The Canadian team dug deep, ensuring Lucena/Brunner never gained a convincing lead. Pedlow/O’Groman saved two match points before a tussle to end before the US team finally closed it down 25-23.
“I’m glad we won. Physically that was a little brutal. We didn’t play great, they’d played good and for us to win that is big for us. I played them in 2013 a couple of times, but Theo and I have not played them and they’re a great team, so we’re pretty fortunate to win that,” said Lucena.
The qualification tournament began with temperatures exceeding 30°C under absolute clear blue skies, with conditions forecast to continue.
“It’s hot and humid here, similar to Florida, but we’re a little jet lagged so hopefully we’ll get better as the tournament goes along, but I’m pretty excited to be in this tournament, it’s a pretty cool place.
“We just want to try and get out of pool, that’s the next step. Get out of pool and it’s a whole new tournament. This is big for us, we’ve had to qualify in every tournament and we’ve done it and it’s hard to do, there are so many good teams,” said Lucena.Germany’s Bockermann/Fluggen post two wins
Ranked sixth in the qualification tournament, Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen needed two wins to secure their spot in the main draw pool play. In the morning the German’s beat Japan’s Hideki Yoshida/Yuki Dogi 2-0 (21-14, 21-19) before meeting Lars Fredrik Tvinde/Hendrik Niklai Mol from Norway.
Despite some great power at the net from Mol,H. the German pair grew in confidence leading them to a smooth passage into the main draw 2-0 (21-17, 21-11).
“It was difficult, the first match was not a good one for us, so we needed to focus ahead of this match very much. We came good into this match, made some good points and in the second set I think they just hung up, I don’t know why,” said Fluggen.
“We had seen them in their first game against Switzerland, they did a really good job. We watched the video and had some tactics against them.
“It’s always a good feeling to qualify for the main draw, especially after the long journey for us, it was a long trip and with the time difference, so we’re happy,” said Bockermann.
Following a strong start to the year winning the Fuzhou Open, the pair have enjoyed less fortune in more recent tournaments.
“I think with the heat, I’m really good with the heat and we’re expecting to win. We hope to win the pool or if that’s not possible get second or third,” said Bockermann.
“We had some bad luck in the last tournaments so we want to make sure that we get out of the pool, just not come in fourth,” said Fluggen.
The main draw pool play gets underway on July 22 at the Yokohama Grand Slam.
This year’s FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam will be the third of five double-gender FIVB Grand Slams, each with a total purse of $800,000, on the FIVB World Tour 2015. Seven FIVB men’s only events were held in Japan from 1989-1995 with six being held in Enoshima and one in Yokohama in 1991. A total of 14 women’s only events were held in Osaka from 1994-2005 and in 2008 and 2009.
Japan has hosted a total of 21 FIVB World Tour events (seven men, 14 women) with the United States leading the medal count for men and Brazil dominating the medal tally for women.
Following the Yokohama Grand Slam the 2015 FIVB World Tour will have a three-week break before resuming in the United States with the double-gender FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam in Southern California set for August 18-23.