Xiamen, China, September 23, 2015 - Top seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins from Latvia won two tough matches on the first day of men's pool play at the $150,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Xiamen Open on Wednesday.
Their morning match saw the Latvians up against Chinese pair Gao Peng and Li Yang in what turned into a tense affair. Big hits from Smedins along with a number of errors by Gao and Li made Latvia dominant in the first set. Gao/Li produced some brilliant play in the second taking the match into a third set.
It looked as if the match would soon be over as Samoilovs/Smedins regained their form to go 10-5 up in the tie-breaker. But the Chinese pair did not give away anything easily, snatching seven of the next nine points to draw level at 12-12. The experienced Latvians then called a timeout allowing them to win three points in a row and secure their first pool win 2-1 (21-12, 19-21, 15-12).
"It's really a pity, because we came so close to pulling off an upset win," said Gao.
Samoilovs/Smedins' second match was another tight clash against Qatar's Jefferson Santos Pereira/Cherif Younousse. The Latvian team won the first set 21-13 easily, but the second proved a heated battle as Samoilovs/Smedins could not find a solution to the hard-hitting Cherif. With the score at 20-16, Jefferson/Cherif wasted two set points before Cherif spiked the ball down the line to end the set. Strong blocking by Samoilovs along with accurate Latvian serving in the tie-breaker made sure the top seeds seal the victory.
Samoilovs and Smedins blamed their under-par performance on fatigue from a match-ladden season. They had competed in the Long Beach Grand Slam (August 18-23), Olsztyn Grand Slam (August 25-30), Rio de Janeiro (September 2-6), Sochi Open (September 8-13) in a span of one month before traveling to China.
"For us, it's a long season. A lot of travelling. That's why we are not in our best shape. That's why the matches are very hard," said Smedins. "But it's good we had won two hard matches today. I think tomorrow will be much easier."
"We had a really hard month. In this month we played so many matches. It's really hard," said Samoilovs. "Luckily we won both matches. That's most important."
Second seeds Philip Dalhausser and Nicholas Lucena, who are competing in their fourth FIVB World Tour event together since 2005, top Pool B with smooth performances for two straight-set wins at the Guanyinshan Gold Beach venue.
The American veteran pair spent only 58 minutes on court on day one of pool play and the wins place them in a favorable position for their final pool match against France's Jean-Baptiste Daguerre/Yannick Salvetti on Thursday.
Francisco Alfredo Marco/Christian Garcia of Spain and Markus Bockermann/Lars Flüggen of Germany also lead their respestive pools with two consecutive wins.
In their second Pool G match, the German pair defeated China's Li Zhuoxin/Li Jian 2-0 (21-19, 21-12), but they were pushed hard during the first set by the local team.
"The Chinese blocker was pretty high, he stopped a lot of my shots. But in the end, with the timeout we made the point," said Flüggen.
The double-gender $150,000 FIVB Xiamen Open is the final point's event on the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball calendar. The event is being held at the Guanyinshan Gold Beach in the Siming District of the Fujian Province. The winning teams in each gender will share the $11,000 first-place prize.