Brno, Czech Republic, August 28, 2019 - After missing the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships due to a toe injury, Marketa Slukova is back in action with teammate Barbora Hermannova for a series of events including the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals next week where the Czech Republic pair seek to improve their positioning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
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Ranked 15th on the women's World Tour, the team participated in the inaugural Aurora Games in the United States where Hermannova and Slukova placed second on Sunday after losing the finals 2-1 (21-18, 19-21, 20-18) to American rivals and the No. 1-ranked pair in the world rankings Alix Klineman and April Ross.
Hermannova and Slukova's schedule continues in Brno, Czech Republic this week at the national championships before the pair heads south to Italy for the World Tour Finals from September 4-8 in Rome and then to the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Qualification Tournament from September 18-22 in Haiyang, China.
Hermannova and Slukova have amassed 4,480 Olympic qualifying points this season at nine World Tour events highlighted by a fifth place at the Vienna Major at the start of August where they ousted Klineman and Ross in the Round of 16. The Czech pair also captured FIVB medals at the start of the season at back-to-back events at the end of April in China (silver in Xiamen) and Malaysia (gold in Port Dickson).
“Since we missed Hamburg, competing in Rome will be a highlight for us," said Slukova, who placed fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games with Kristyna Kolocova after being eliminated in the London quarterfinals by Ross and Jen Kessy. "I am happy that I can play again after all the injuries this year and just enjoy competing at a high level now. After the Rome event, we will go to Asia for the fourth time this season where we will try to throw everything that we have left into the Olympic qualifying tournament."
Marketa Slukova (left) hitting against American Jen Kessy at the London 2012 Olympic Games
After Sunday's event at the inaugural Aurora Games, the 28-year-old Hermannova said: "I am very happy that we are playing better. We feel that we can beat everyone on good days. It still does not work every game, but it gets more consistent from tournament to tournament. Rome is a new location for us as a team and we will do anything to perform well there."
While Hermannova has never competed in a FIVB World Tour event in Italy, Slukova has appeared four times in Rome with Kolocova highlighted by a ninth in 2012 when the Czech pair dropped a three-set elimination match to London 2012 Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States.
Simon Nausch, the Czech coach and Marketa's husband, noted that his team has "started to play good again. It has been a hard season for us. Marketa has overcome a strange shoulder injury or condition from last season that we finally got under control in February. Then Bara gets sick in early June at the home event in Ostrava and Marketa breaks her toe in a freak accident before the World Championships."
Simon Nausch (centre) with Marketa Slukova (left) and Barbora Hermannova
A player on the World Tour for Austria, Nausch added that Hermannova and Slukova's five post-Hamburg World tour events have been "productive. We have posted a fifth and four ninths but feel we could have gone further each time. All things considered; I feel we are close to one big result again."
The "big result again" Nausch was referring to was his team's play at the end of the 2017-2018 season when Hermannova and Slukova finished as the No. 2 team on the FIVB World Tour ranking behind Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil. In the Czech team's last two events in 2018, the pair captured the Vienna Major gold medal before losing to Agatha and Duda in the World Tour Finals in Hamburg.
As for Rome or China, Nausch feels his team will “perform great at both events. We are getting stronger after all the challenges of the season. Rome is the World Tour Final and a good result will be a big step in the Tokyo qualification process. With a good result in Rome, we would go to China with extra motivation. The China event is special and provides an excellent opportunity to qualify for Tokyo.”