Chetumal, Mexico, November 15, 2019 – The year of 2019 was about to be marked in Alexander Walkenhorst’s career as the one in which he missed the World Championships at home due to injury. However, with the help of partner Sven Winter, the 31-year-old German blocker is finding a way to also have positive memories of 2019 as the team qualified for the quarterfinals of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event in Chetumal, Mexico on Friday.
Due to a right wrist injury that demanded surgery, Walkenhorst sat out of the courts between June and the end of October. He and Winter arrived in Chetumal fresh from the first tournament they had played together since the blocker’s return, a frustrating 25th-place finish in Qinzhou, China, in which they lost both their pool matches.
The Germans look like a completely different team in Chetumal, though, and have won all three of their matches in the Mexican coastal city this week.
“The injury came at the worst possible time of the season, to miss the World Championships at home was brutal,” Walkenhorst recalled. “I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves in China as Sven had been playing with other partners for the last five months while I was rehabbing, so we just decided to come here and try to play the best we could and it has been working.”
On Friday evening, the Germans had the ultimate test to their form as they upset home heroes Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen 2-1 (19-21, 22-20, 18-16) in front of a packed centre court. Earlier, the Europeans downed Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley 2-0 (21-18, 21-12).
“It was amazing,” Winter said about the match. “The fans were all singing and the atmosphere was unbelievable. I feel that both teams fought until the end and for us to win that third set after being behind, that’s a set I feel like we’d lose nine out of ten times and I’m glad we won it this time. It almost feels bad that we eliminated the last Mexican team from the tournament, but I hope we can have the fans on our side at the weekend.”
The Germans will compete for a semifinal spot with Chilean cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt, who are also undefeated after they prevailed over Andre and George 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) in the Round of 16.
Chileans Marco and Esteban Grimalt and Americans Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb have both qualified for the quarterfinals
The three other quarterfinal matchups at the Chetumal Open will see USA’s Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb against Austria’s Martin Ermacora/Moritz Pristauz, the Czech Republic's Ondrej Perusic/David Schweiner face USA's Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb and the Netherlands' Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen versus Austria's Robin Seidl/Philipp Waller.
The quarterfinals are set for Saturday afternoon while the semifinals will happen in the evening session. The medal matches end the tournament on Sunday afternoon.