10.07.2019 - Gstaad
One of the best things about beach volleyball, players will frequently mention, is the fact that right after a frustrating tournament there’s always another one in which that disappointment can easily be erased.
To say that Nina Betschart and Tanja Hüberli had a frustrating campaign at last week’s World Championships would be a stretch as they delivered Switzerland its best-ever result among the women, but they certainly weren’t the happiest people ion Earth when they left Hamburg empty-handed after their fourth-place finish.
This week, however, the Swiss couldn’t have had a better opportunity to turn the page as they are playing at home in the Swatch Major Gstaad. Their opening match, a 21-16, 21-15 victory over Russian qualifiers Ksenia Dabizha and Daria Rudykh at the Red Bull Beach Arena, was certainly a promising first step, and, most importantly, it made them start looking that fourth-place finish in Hamburg from a different angle.
“When I got here and saw the stadium and the people, that’s when I started realizing that fourth place was really good,” Tanja said. “But there are still some moments in which I get back to our semi-final match and keep thinking what we should have made differently to score that one point we didn’t. A fourth place is always tricky because it means you lost two straight in the end, but we also earned a lot of Olympic qualification points and that’s for sure a positive side.”
The atmosphere in Gstaad, considered by many players as the best World Tour location, is certainly helping the Swiss in lifting their spirits after ten days of tough competition at the Rothenbaum Stadium.
“When I came to the court I had tears in my eyes,” the blocker added. “It’s amazing to see how many people are here and you look at the ball boys and they’re all smiling and everybody is really happy. Everyone wants to help and that’s really special for all the players because there’s no other tournament where you feel so much joy and willingness to help.”
Nina and Tanja, who will now face Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth for the top spot of Pool A, weren’t the only home team to start on the right foot as Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré also pleased the Swiss fans with a 18-21, 21-19, 15-12 triumph over Germany’s Karla Borger and Julia Sude to open Pool D. Their next opponents will be Czechs Marketa Sluková and Barbora Hermannova.
On Pool H, Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, who won their first Beach Major Series medal in Gstaad last year, when they took bronze, debuted with a 21-14, 18-21, 15-7 victory over Brazilian qualifiers Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima and will now play for the top spot of the pool against Dutch Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink, who downed Finland’s Taru Lathi and Anniina Parkkinen 21-19, 21-17 on their opener.
Brazilians Ágatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa, who were among the favorites in Hamburg but couldn’t get past ninth-place, secured a 22-20, 21-9 victory over Austrians Katharina Schützenhöfer and Lena Plesiutschnig and will now decide Pool F with Americans Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who debuted with a 21-15, 21-16 win over Russian veterans Ekaterina Birlova and Evgenia Ukolova.
Other American team in position to top its pool is the one of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat. The veterans opened their Pool G campaign downing Chinese Chen Xue and Xinxin Wang 21-15, 21-16 and will now cross paths with Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka, who upset Brazilians Bárbara Seixas and Fernanda Berti 21-19, 21-19.