Beach Pro Tour - News

Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt

Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt

Two teams that desperately need ranking points on the qualification road to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games made sure they got the maximum from the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Xiamen Challenge, which came to an end on Sunday in China. Chile’s Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt topped the podium in the men’s competition, while Germany’s Karla Borger & Sandra Ittlinger did so on the women’s side.

France’s Youssef Krou & Arnaud Gauthier-Rat and Switzerland’s Joana Mader & Anouk Verge-Depre took the silver medals, while Germany’s Lukas Pfretzschner & Sven Winter and Spain’s Daniela Alvarez & Tania Moreno completed the podiums with bronze.

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Entering the tournament as the fifth-seeded team in Thursday’s qualifiers and getting the 18th seed in the 24-team main draw, the Grimalt cousins, who were right on the edge of the provision Olympic ranking qualifying area before the event, had a difficult road to the top in Xiamen. Starting the main draw with a loss, they bounced back with five wins in a row to reach the gold, but in all of their last four matches they persevered through tie-breaker third sets, each time coming back from a set down to hammer out an impressive comeback.

In Sunday’s semifinals, the Chileans mounted a 2-1 (18-21, 21-19, 15-12) turnaround against Pfretzschner & Winter, before overcoming a first-set setback in the final against Krou & Gauthier-Rat to celebrate a 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 15-9) victory and their second-ever medal on the Beach Pro Tour, after the Gstaad Elite16 gold in 2022.

Grimalt M./Grimalt E. vs. Krou/Gauthier-Rat - Gold Match Highlights Xiamen 2024 #BeachProTour

Before the Grimalts’ comeback in the gold medal match, 21st-seeded Krou & Gauthier-Rat, who are hoping to represent the host nation at Paris 2024, had not dropped a single set in Xiamen. They crowned their perfect run with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) semifinal shutout of fourth-seeded Americans Chase Budinger & Miles Evans to secure their fourth Beach Pro Tour medal. The French pair had previously collected one of each colour.

Seeded second in the main draw, Pfretzschner & Winter had few issues on the way to the semifinals, mastering four straight-set victories in a row. After losing to the Grimalts, they recovered with a 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-13) win over Budinger & Evans to grab the bronze, their second medal in two appearances on the Tour so far this season. The Germans took the silver at the Guadalajara Challenge earlier this month.

Second-seeded Borger & Ittlinger and ninth-seeded Mader & Verge-Depre, both of whom are in the heat of three-way domestic races for the maximum of two women’s tickets to Paris available to each country, ploughed through five consecutive wins each to reach the women’s final. The Swiss’ journey included as many as four three-setters and, interestingly, in one of them they managed a quarterfinal knockout of the Germans’ closest domestic rival, Louisa Lippmann & Laura Ludwig. Lippmann & Ludwig, on the other hand, had just eliminated Mader & Verge-Depre’s closest Swiss rival on the road to the Olympics, Esmee Bobner & Zoe Verge-Depre, in the eighthfinals.

In Sunday’s gold medal match, Borger & Ittlinger got the job done in straight sets, 2-0 (22-20, 21-14), to celebrate their first-ever Beach Pro Tour gold. Their only previous podium as a pair brought them silver at the Goa Challenge last fall, where they lost the final to Mader & Verge-Depre. For the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists, the Xiamen silver was also the second Beach Pro Tour medal, after the gold in Goa.

Ittlinger/Borger vs. Vergé-Dépré A./Mäder - Gold Match Highlights Xiamen 2024 #BeachProTour

In Sunday morning’s semifinals, Borger & Ittlinger mastered a 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) shutout of eighth-seeded Lithuanians Monika Paulikiene & Aine Raupelyte, while Mader & Verge-Depre squeezed out a narrow 2-1 (25-23, 15-21, 17-15) win over 10th-seeded Alvarez & Moreno. The bronze went to the Spaniards after a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) sweep of the third place match and, by the way, they also finished third in Goa... The team’s total Beach Pro Tour tally now stands at one silver and three bronze medals.

The Beach Pro Tour will return to Brazil next week for an Elite16 event in the capital Brasilia from May 1 to 5. The next Challenge event is in Stare Jablonki, Poland from May 30 to June 2.