CKU 220706 2131

The life of a Swiss beach volleyball player can be measured in two distinct epochs: There is a Before Gstaad, and an After Gstaad.

Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer can recall both moments as if they were yesterday. For Krattiger, his BG moment came in 2014. It was freezing. Raining.

“We were wearing long pants, like ski pants,” the 27-year-old from Amriswil said, laughing. He still has pictures from that year, photos with Sean Rosenthal and Alison. Florian Breer has a similar memory, when the 1.85m defender was a merely pint-sized teenager. There he is, coming up to the hip of Phil Dalhausser. He showed him that picture a year ago, too. Had a good laugh about it.

"It was so funny because he was way taller than me," Breer said.

More than the nostalgic chuckles, though, those moments provide seminal milestones upon which Krattiger and Breer can measure their progress. It was more than 10 years ago that Krattiger first witnessed Gstaad in person. Only five years ago, Krattiger made his first top-10 in Gstaad, alongside Nico Beeler.

“We were against [Poland’s Piotr] Kantor and [Bartosz] Losiak, and we had no chance of winning,” Krattiger recalled. “I was so overwhelmed from the stadium, and we lost but I felt like I won. It was hard to channel my emotions because the stadium is just crazy how much they cheer for you.”

Such is the magnitude of playing in Gstaad, particularly if you were raised just a quick and stunning train ride away. On Wednesday, Krattiger and Breer gave the home fans plenty to cheer for, as Switzerland’s No. 1 men’s team finished 2-0, with sweeps over Tomas Semerad and Jakub Sepka of the Czech Republic and Stefan Boermans and Matthew Immers of the Netherlands.

“I think the key today was that we were always sticking together, trying to find a way to get better in the game,” Krattiger said. “That was the key. When Florian needed a little help, I stepped up, then it was the other way around in the second set [against the Netherlands]. It felt great to come back in that way, especially in the second set, we had everything working for us, and that was the best feeling.”

The pair of victories guarantees the two at least a ninth, which would match both of their career-highs in Gstaad. Not that either of them are satisfied with simply a ninth. As a reporter gently reminded them after their win over Boermans, the defending champion in Gstaad, and Immers, it has been nearly 20 years since a Swiss team won a gold at home – when Breer was 6 and Krattiger 10.

“It’s about time,” Krattiger said. “I hope we can make a big step towards that."

Who they’ll play will be determined on Thursday, when pool play finishes and the first round of bracket play concludes. There will be brutal draws, as upsets abounded on Wednesday, beginning with the first match of the day, as Germans Lukas Pfretzschner and Robin Sowa stunned world No. 1 Andre and George, 18-21, 21-19, 15-9. Shortly after, Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol sent Evandro and Alvaro into a win-or-go-home match, winning 13-21, 21-18, 17-15. Two courts down, their countrymen, Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak, fell to Austria’s Julian Horl and Alexander Horst, 21-16, 21-18. Young Aussies Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis, coming off a brilliant World Championships and an unexpectedly phenomenal start to the year, downed Austria’s Phillipp Waller and Robin Seidl, 10-21, 21-19, 15-12.

The No. 6-ranked team in the world, Samuele Cottafava and Paolo Nicolai, likewise could not avoid the carnage, falling to Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen, who would engineer another upset a few hours later, defeating Estonia’s Mart Tiisaar and Kusti Nolvak.

The women’s side, too, was chock full of upsets, none bigger than Japan’s Miki Ishii and Sayaka Mizoe shocking world No. 1 Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands. 24-26, 21-14, 15-9. Americans Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn engineered a big one themselves, beating countrywomen Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth, 16-21, 21-18, 15-13.

There are, as Krattiger and Breer and every other Swiss team knows, no free wins in Gstaad. They come hard and they come earned. And for Krattiger and Breer, they come with the unforgettable roars from the home crowd.

“It was a really good team effort the whole day,” Breer said. “We really pushed ourselves, and when we had a bad few points and didn’t manage to play our best, we kept fighting, and in the end, we had two 2-0 games and we’re really happy with that. Last year we had some good memories and some good games and we want to go even further.”