Vienna, Austria, August 3, 2019 - Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho started the schedule off here Saturday morning with a surprise for some, but not shocking for beach volleyball followers as the Brazilians eliminated newly-crowned world champions Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia in the quarterfinals at the $600,000 A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch.
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Seeded fifth in the FIVB World Tour event, Alison and Álvaro posted a 2-1 (14-21, 21-16, 15-11) in a 54-minute quarterfinal match to advance to Sunday's first semifinal contest where the Brazilians will play 14th-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States in the first match between the two teams.
Sunday’s second semifinal features a rematch of last year’s Vienna finalists as top-seeded Anders Mol/Christian Sorum of Norway meet was sixth-seeded Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek of Poland. In the 2018 Vienna gold medal match, Mol and Sorum posted a 2-0 (21-12, 21-17) win in 38 minutes over the Polish pair.
Saturday morning’s win was the Brazilians third win in five meetings this season with Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy, who netted their world championship title July 7 in Hamburg, Germany. Alison and Alvaro, who are playing in their 11th World Tour event together, placed ninth at the worlds.
With their fourth-straight win in the A1 Major Vienna, Alison and Alvaro have now advanced to their third-straight World Tour semifinal and fourth overall this season. The Brazilians placed fourth at last weekend's Olympic dress rehearsal event in Tokyo while topping podiums in April and July at FIVB tournaments in Malaysia and Portugal, respectively.
“This is evolution," said the 33-year-old Alison about the trio of final four appearances in the last three weeks. "If you look at us individually, it’s obvious that we should make a good team, but it wouldn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of work for us to figure out what the best way to play is and even to understand each other as partners. It’s a process and it involved us playing on country-quotas and three-stars, but our coaching staff is doing a great job on that and now we can clearly see what kind of team we can be.”
When asked about the tuning the game around after a bad start (7-2 and first set loss), the 28-year-old Alvaro said "the Russians are a great team and they started the match on fire, serving and blocking really well. We were just focused on scoring the next point and communicating well. After that tough start Alison’s block started working, I got to dig some balls, and everything just came together for us.”
Alison Cerutti (left) and Álvaro Filho of Brazil
After the two women semifinal matches on the A1 Major Vienna center court, Dalhausser and Lucena secured their spot in the semifinals by posting a 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) win in 45 minutes over Nils Ehlers/Lars Fluggen of Germany in the first-ever FIVB World Tour match between the two teams.
After the match, the 39-year-old Dalhausser said “nothing’s easy out here. There are so many good teams, the Germans had crazy travel, they made the finals in Tokyo and basically had to get on a flight and arrived Monday and started playing on Tuesday. Hat’s off to them for a great tournament and we’re excited we’re in the semis.”
When asked about playing against Alison and Alvaro, Dalhausser said “another tough match. Alison and Alvaro have been playing really well. I think this is their third semis in a row, so we’ll have to play well, use this momentum moving forward and take it into that semi.
Lucena was asked about his team’s deficit in the second set and said “we knew they were going to steady out. They made some plays and then I believe at 12-9 we got seven in a row, which doesn’t happen that often. We changed up our defense a little bit and started doing more straight-up movements and it worked out. Phil made some blocks and we were pretty fortunate.”
Americans Nick Lucena (left) and Phil Dalhausser
Also posting a Saturday morning quarterfinal victory was Bryl and Fijalek, who scored a 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) win in 40 minutes over 22nd-seeded Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira of Spain.
Hitting at the net is Grzegorz Fijalek (right) of Poland against Spaniard Adrian Gavira
After losing to the Spaniards in pool play Thursday, the 28-year-old Bryl said his team "changed our strategy. On Thursday we served Pablo and he absolutely destroyed us. Now we went for Adrian and we decided that I would play his angle shots and Fijalek would defend the line and our tactics worked really well.”
Bryl said “Vienna has been a lucky place for us. We made the final right last year and I hope we can do it again this time. We haven’t been playing really well for the last two months and after getting a bunch of ninths we were questioning ourselves if we still could play at last year’s level, but this match showed we can.”
In Saturday’s final quarterfinal match, Mol and Sorum scored a 2-0 (21-14, 21-13) in 41 minutes over 25th-seeded Adrian Heidrich/Mirco Gerson of Switzerland. It was the second World Tour meeting between the two teams with Heidrich and Gerson defeated the Norwegian in a pool play match last season Poland.
Anders Mol (left) and Christian Sorum of Norway
After their team won their 17th-straight World Tour match to improve their season record to 59-4 on the FIVB circuit, the 22-year-old Mol said “it was really fun to go out there today, for sure really important. We wanted that victory so bad because we lost to them the last time, we played them. We gave it our all and we’re standing here with a victory and coming to the semifinals.
Mol said “it was nice to play one match today. We’ll recover this evening, eat some good food and relax and get ready for tomorrow. We’ve been playing a lot of games lately; our bodies can feel it. We just have to step on the court and give it our all.”
The men’s gold medal match Sunday concludes the A1 Major Vienna with the winning team sharing the $40,000 first-place prize along with securing 1,200 points towards qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.