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2018-07-05 11:00:00 CET

One step from paradise

Except for their results, everything has been perfect for Hüberli and Betschart in Gstaad – and they want to fix it!

Tanja and Nina are ready for their third appearance together in GstaadTanja and Nina are ready for their third appearance together in Gstaad

That time of the year beach volleyball players are waiting for is finally here. It’s time to go up to the mountains and get ready for the Swatch Major Gstaad, the favorite tournament of nearly every athlete competing in the World Tour, which kicks off next week and runs until July 15.

And if international players are noticeably excited to compete in the Swiss Alps for the 19th straight season, how might local rising stars Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart be feeling right now?

“We always love to come to Gstaad,” the 25-year-old Tanja, who has also enjoyed the city during the winter with her friends, said. “It’s such a beautiful place, the organizers are amazing and we know a lot of people who are coming all the way up to the mountains to support us. Gstaad is for sure always one of the tournaments we are the most excited to play in.”

The possibility of having a massive crowd behind them is certainly something the young Swiss especially enjoy when they are competing in their home soil. The image of a packed Center Court yelling their names and waving Swiss flags is one they cannot wait to see again.

“Sometimes it really feels like we have a third player on the court,” Tanja added. “Especially if you are under pressure or tired and you hear the crowd going crazy, it gives you some extra energy.”

Obviously couldn't get that ball, like too many others as well this week🙈 time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the #gstaadmajor in two weeks!! * * * #beachvolleyball #17th #warsaw #poland #fivb #majorseries #gstaad #patience

478 Likes, 9 Comments - Tanja Hüberli (@tanjahueberli) on Instagram: "Obviously couldn't get that ball, like too many others as well this week🙈 time to recharge the..."

But the Gstaad Major’s experience is not limited to what happens in the sand courts. The 10,000-inhabitants village nestled in the middle of the Swiss Alps gets a different atmosphere when the tournament is there. And it is the perfect location to several activities such as hiking, biking, shopping and eating.

“This little city has so much charm, it’s normally very calm and our event is something totally different to the normal life up there,” Nina, 22, commented. “Friends of my family have an apartment in the middle of nowhere near Gstaad and during the tournament my whole family lives there and we always have nice dinners, walks and talks, which make this tournament really feel like home to me.”

If Nina and Tanja could change one thing in Gstaad it would certainly be their results there. The duo has played together in the Swiss Alps in the last two seasons but couldn’t make past the Round of 32, finishing in a frustrating 17th place in both occasions.

In 2017, the Swiss were eliminated by Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh (Photocredit: FIVB)In 2017, the Swiss were eliminated by Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh (Photocredit: FIVB)

For a team that has had 14 top-10 finishes and three bronze medals in 27 World Tour events, to not advance further in their home event and have their dreams cut short was an eye-opener.

“We had close defeats in the Round of 32 in both 2016 and 2017,” Nina recalled. “Finishing 17th is not what we were aiming for, but this also happened in some other tournaments. We know that we have to get more consistent and we are looking forward to hopefully do better this year. We just have to try to play our game, stay calm and find a good mix between lightness and determination.”

Their most recent setback in Gstaad, however, was a learning experience for the Swiss and it made them change their strategy heading to the 2018 tournament. In 2017, they debuted in their home event just three days after winning the bronze medal in the Poreč Major, where they had played seven matches, including three tie-breakers.

For 2018, Nina and Tanja decided to skip the four-star event in Espinho, Portugal, this week, and give their bodies some rest so they can be in their best form when competition starts in Gstaad.

“Last year it was not the easiest situation for us after winning the bronze medal at the Poreč Major right the week before Gstaad,” Hüberli, who finished ninth in Gstaad in 2014 with former partner Tanja Goricanec, reflected. “This year we are taking a week off before Gstaad to be fully recovered and be ready for it. We definitely want to go further than we did in the last two years”.

The bronze medal in the 2017 Poreč Major was the highlight of the Swiss' seasonThe bronze medal in the 2017 Poreč Major was the highlight of the Swiss' season

The medal they won in the Croatian coast last year was the second won by the duo, which currently ranks 13th in the world, in the Beach Major Series – they were also third in the 2016 Klagenfurt Major. If they keep their average, could another podium placement be just waiting to happen in Gstaad next week?

“Winning a gold medal in your home country, in front of our families and friends, sounds like a fairy tale and it is kind of a dream,” Tanja remarked. “We could not always perform the way we wanted to in the past tournaments and we are still looking for some better finishes. To win a Major event is maybe still a little too far away for Nina and me right now, but for sure we would be very happy and delighted about another medal on a Major Series event.”

Good luck, ladies, and have fun in your home tournament!

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