Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 10, 2017 – The United States and Brazil will be the only countries competing in the last day of the $600,000 Fort Lauderdale Major as two American teams and two Brazilian tandems advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 international beach volleyball season opener this Friday.
The four best teams of the tournament will play for the medals on Saturday, with the semifinals in the morning session and the bronze and gold medal matches scheduled for the afternoon.
Three out of the four semifinalists came from the pool H, with all of Brazil’s Alvaro Filho/Saymon Barbosa and Evandro Goncalves/Andre Loyola and USA’s John Hyden/Ryan Doherty playing their first international tournaments in these formations in Fort Lauderdale. No.1 seeded USA’s Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were in pool A in the group stage.
The highlight of the quarterfinals round was the matchup between Dalhausser and Lucena and Brazil’s Olympic champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, a rematch from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games seven months ago. In front of a good public in the center court, the Americans came from behind to win in three sets 2-1 (13-21, 21-17, 15-10).
“It felt like a final”, said Dalhausser. “We came out so flat and they were on fire. It felt really good to come back and win on three. Nick calmed down a little bit and started siding out great. That was the difference from the first set.”
This was the second win of the Americans over the Brazilians in just six days, as the teams met in an exhibition match disputed at the Rio Olympic Tennis Center named “Gigantes da Praia”, or “Giants of the Beach” last Sunday.
The local heroes will face another Brazilian team in their semifinal, the towering Evandro Gonçalves and Andre Loyola. The No.8 seeds assured their spot in the medals round after they beat USA’s Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb in straight sets 2-0 (21-19, 21-17).
Andre Loyola shows his excitement as the Brazilian advanced to the semifinal
Brazilian qualifiers Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa reached the semifinals in their first tournament together with an undefeated 6-0 record and without dropping sets. The duo, who lead their National Tour, started their journey in Fort Laurderdale in the qualification tournament. Their latest victory was against Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek/Michal Bryl 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve been through a lot to get here, first playing for our spot in this tournament in Brazil and then making it out of the qualification tournament and of the pools stage,” recalls the 23-year-old Saymon. “It’s really important for us seeing that our hard work is paying off, but we need to do more and advance to the final. We are trying to have fun on the court, smiling all the time and things are happening for us.”
The biggest setback of the quarterfinals was USA’s John Hyden/Ryan Doherty defeating Italy’s Olympic silver medallists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai in three sets 2-1 (12-21, 21-19, 15-11). The 2.14m Doherty was not even scheduled to play in the tournament, but Hyden’s regular partner Tri Bourne had a shoulder injury and the 44-year-old invited him to compete in the season opener.
“I’ve admired John for years by playing against him,” says Doherty “So I obviously jumped to the chance of playing with him and so far it’s working really well. He just confirmed Tri wouldn’t be able to play on Sunday, so I booked my ticket, came here on Monday, we got a couple of practices and are trying to roll. We’re happy to be in the semifinals, let’s get some rest and see what we can do, maybe get a medal.”
USA's veteran John Hyden sets in the quarterfinal match against Italy