Beach Volleyball World Championships Preview
By Tom Feuer
The World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, will be the best litmus test on the state of the beach volleyball world one year out from Tokyo and the Olympic Summer Games. Aside from that quadrennial spectacle, the Worlds are the most important single event on the calendar (with apologies to the USA players who might think the Manhattan Beach Open carries more gravitas) and probably a tougher tournament to win than the Olympics given that the strongest countries (i.e. Brazil, USA, German women, Russian men) can have more than the Olympic mandated two entries per country.
Pool play begins on June 28th at the Am Rothenbaum Stadium, known heretofore as the venue for the German Open Tennis Championships. There are up to three courts for pool play with 12 pools of four teams per gender. “Lucky Loser” playoffs begin on July 2nd for the women and then the 32 team single elimination phase will begin on July 3rd for the women and July 4th for the men. Semifinals for the women are the 5th, the medal matches on the 6th, and for the men semis are on the 6th and medal matches on the 7th.
The Olympic Channel in the USA will offer a ton of real-time and delayed coverage, and later on in the tourney NBCSN kicks in for the semis and medal rounds. Chris Marlowe and Kevin Wong will be on the call. So how do we handicap the field??
Pool Play—Men: Since 32 teams make it out of pool play none of the favorites (barring injury) are likely to bite the dust. Nevertheless, teams will want to position themselves for a good seeding when the knockout phase begins. Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne in Pool “L” have the easiest quadrant and could win it, although they have been placed with Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany, an erratic team, who if they are on could actually medal. At the last World Championships held in Germany, in 2005 in Berlin, the host country took third and fourth. Marvin Polte and Thorsten Schon took the latter position. They were total unknowns who ended up being a total blip on the radar screen. The toughest pool may be Phil Dalhausser’s and Nick Lucena’s, especially in light of Dalahausser’s abdominal injury suffered in Warsaw at the last FIVB event before the Worlds. In their Pool “F” they face 2013 World Champions and 2016 Olympic bronze medalists, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, the hard hitting and hard serving Dutch duo, as well as Canadians Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman, a tough out.
Pool Play—Women: Easiest pool BY FAR is Pool “A” where home country Germany was given a huge pass with the conferring of the number one seeds to Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Laboureur. Their partnership has hardly clicked, with a ninth, two seventeenths and a 25th. Of interest in that pool is the Canadian and UCLA twin sister pair of Megan and Nicole McNamara who could advance to the single elimination rounds. Toughest pool is “G” where Warsaw Four Star winners Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy, riding a hot streak, are in the same quadrant with the USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat as well as the Dutch duo of Joy Stubbe and Marleen Van Iersel. Artacho and Clancy have podium finished three times in five events in this calendar year.
As far as the favorites go, here is how I would lay odds:
3:1— Christian Sorum/Anders Mol, Norway
4:1—Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Oleg Stoyanovskiy, Russia
8:1—Julius Thole/Clemens Wickler, Germany
8:1—Konstantin Semenov/Ilya Leshukov, Russia
10:1—Grzegorz Fijalek/Michal Bryl, Poland
12:1—Piotr Kantor/Bartoz Losiak, Poland
12:1—Ahmad Tijan/Cherif Younousse, Qatar
3:1—Ana Patricia/Rebecca, Brazil
4:1—April Ross/Alix Klineman, USA
5:1—Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings, USA
5:1—Mariafe Artacho/Taliqua Clancy, Australia
7:1—Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson, Canada
10:1—Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova, Czech Republic
15:1—Laura Ludwig/Margareta Kozuch, Germany