Rome, Italy, September 5, 2019 - On Sunday, the German national beach volleyball tour championship was decided when Karla Borger and Julia Sude defeated Laura Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch in a memorable three-set final.
Four days later, the Germans were at it again with different stakes on the line in the FIVB World Tour Finals at Foro Italico. And Borger and Sude took the initiative with a 2-0 (21-19, 27-25) victory on Thursday as pool play got underway.
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The matchup is intriguing. Ludwig, of course, is the reigning Olympic gold medallist and Borger was also a Rio 2016 Olympian. Kozuch, a former indoor star, knew she would have a lot to learn on the beach and the process is beginning to kick in.
Disappointment for Maggie Kozuch (left) and Laura Ludwig
“The most important thing is to see everything step by step, to live the moment,” she said. “Of course, it can be very overwhelming if you think about the big thing, maybe, next year. Game by game, step by step, point by point, practice by practice, this is what is important right now. That’s what counts right now to build to something bigger.”
Sude made a valiant run at qualifying in 2016 with Chantal Laboureur, but a crowded German field proved too much to overcome. This time around, Sude and Borger are the leaders of the German pack at the moment.
“I don’t think it’s harder but mentally it’s a totally different mind-set we have to work on. And that’s why we have our psychologist here,” Sude said, laughing. “Now it’s a totally different position. With Chantal we were always behind, we were not the favorites.
“Now because of the changes, we look like the favorites and everyone expects from us to make good results and we expect this from us as well, so we have to prove it every week.”
Entering Rome, Borger and Sude are No. 18 in the World Olympic rankings, which leaves them on the outside of the top 15-finish they’d need to qualify.
“It’s funny because it’s a new situation for us both but it doesn’t feel like we’re getting chased, it feels like the competition is always there,” Borger said. “It’s more about delivering your best.
Stretching for the ball is Karla Borger as German partner Julia Sude follows the action
“I think I’m never super-satisfied at all. In general, it’s good, we still have good results in the Olympic ranking and it’s our aim now to get the bad results out. It’s a little step today, but we like the tournament so much that it makes sense to play here really long.”
Kozuch may have the luxury of playing alongside a gold medallist and three-time Olympian, but they’re also on the outside looking at No. 26 in the world rankings.
“It would be difficult to learn anything from me I think because I’m struggling myself,” Ludwig said with just the hint of a smile. “I think it’s the calmness you need to go point by point and not thinking about what is coming. Everyone is close with each other and, I went through it three times and it’s like a hard lesson, lots to learn and lots to grow with.
“We have to both learn out of it. I can give some advice and learn from it. This is the part of growing together and trusting in it.”