Sochi, Russia, September 9, 2015 – Much to their own surprise Russian qualifiers Alexander Likholetov and Ilya Leshukov upset Italy’s top team Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai 2-1 (21-14, 13-21, 20-18) on Wednesday in the first pool play round of the FIVB World Tour Sochi Open.
“This is a great win for us, especially since it was so unexpected”, Likholetov said. “Our opponents are very strong, an established team that has won lots of medals. Therefore it was not our goal to win at any cost, on the contrary, we just wanted to have fun, to show a good game.”
The 4th seeded Italians came back after losing the first set and in the tiebreak it was touch and go, but with the support of the home crowd Likholetov and Leshukov turned out to have the strongest nerves.
Although they were very happy with their big win, Leshukov put it into perspective. “We consider that it was not their best game. We have seen them play before, they can play much better.”
The Sochi Open is the first main draw experience for the new Russian team on the World Tour, but now they want more. “We want to keep winning and get out of the pool”, Likholetov said.Good start for Semenov and Krasilnikov
Russia’s top seeded Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov started the Sochi Open with a 2-0 (21-11, 21-19) win over bottom seeded Igor Horvath and Matej Hukel from Slovakia.
“This was a good start for us”, said Semenov. “We played against the Slovakian team some days before at the CEV Continental cup here in Sochi. They are not used to play on the World Tour, I heard that the guys are from indoor volleyball. But it was a very tough match. The tall guy Hukel is pretty strong, he is very good on block. So we are happy to get a first victory here at home sand.”
Semenov and Krasilnikov collected three medals since they teamed up in August 2013, one gold and two silver, but the last one dates back to the Moscow Grand Slam in 2014 (gold). This year they finished a disappointing 25th in Moscow.
But it’s time for another medal now, Semenov said. “Our goal at the Sochi Open is to be on the podium. But there are a lot of good rivals here. So, we will have to keep on fighting.”
The other four Russian men’s teams in the Sochi Open all lost their first pool play match. Rio Open champions Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins (2nd seeded) won 2-0 (21-14, 21-14) against Ukraine’s Gordieiev and Babich. USA’s Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena (3rd) booked a 2-1 (21-15, 14-21, 15-9) win over Russian qualifiers Velichko and Sivolap.