German Olympic champion Walkenhorst wins on Fort Lauderdale debut

Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 8, 2017 – The reigning Olympic champions competing at the $600,000 Fort Lauderdale Major, the 2017 international beach volleyball season opener, had different starts on the tournament Wednesday morning in Florida. While German Kira Walkenhorst succeeded on her first match in the women’s event, Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt faced an early setback against a local team.

Walkenhorst, who is competing with Julia Grossner while her regular partner Laura Ludwig recovers from a shoulder injury, had a smooth start in Fort Lauderdale. The tandem overcame fellow German Teresa Mersmann and Sandra Ittlinger in straight sets 2-0 (21-13, 21-12) on their debut in Pool D.

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“I am really happy that we played very well in our first match. We’ll see how it works from now on, as there are lots of new teams here and it is really hard to tell what the level will be. It’s the beginning of the season and we want to work on our rhythm,” commented Walkenhorst.

Another German team that started its trajectory in Florida with reasons to celebrate was the one of Karla Borger and her new partner, former indoor national team star Margareta Kozuch, who switched to the sand before the start of the season. Playing together for the first time, the European defeated Argentinean Olympians Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug 2-0 (21-13, 22-20) in Pool G.

USA’s Brooke Sweat/Summer Ross, in Pool D, and Austria’s Stefani Schwaiger/Katharina Schutzennhofer and Czech Republic’s Barbora Hermannová/Marketa Slukova, both in Pool H, among other teams, also started their journeys in Florida with a win in the women’s tournament.

In the men’s tournament, Brazilians Alison and Bruno were surprised by USA’s Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner and lost in straight sets 2-0 (21-14, 22-20) on the first match on center court. The Americans are playing their first tournament as a team and started ahead in Pool C.

“Obviously that’s the best team there is in the last bunch of years so we knew it could go either way and we just tried to play our best and it worked out,” said Brunner, who scored ten block points against the Brazilian. “I know it’s still early in our partnership. We feel like there’s a little variation in our game and if we’re playing well and I’m blocking well and if our ‘D’ is on, we can definitely beat anyone so we’re not surprised.”

Rio 2016 silver medallists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy started on fire in Pool G, beating the Chilean Grimalt cousins Marco and Esteban in straight sets 2-0 (21-18, 21-17).

Italy's Paolo Nicolai prepares to block against the Chilean team

Twelve other men’s teams also won their opening matches at the Fort Lauderdale Major, including Brazil’s Pedro Solberg and Guto Carvalhaes in Pool D, Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak in Pool E and USA’s John Hyden and Ryan Doherty in Pool H.

Action continues at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park this afternoon, with 28 more matches scheduled for the rest of the day. The men’s tournament will end on Saturday while the women’s gold medal match will close the event on Sunday afternoon.


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