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World ranking leaders Cherif and Ahmed of Qatar will be a team to look out for in Rosarito

After an outstanding event in Tlaxcala last week, there's a lot to look forward to when the best beach volleyball players on the planet hit the sand in Rosarito, Mexico.

The first-ever Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 tournament this week will feature a field of just 28 teams per gender (12 of which will start directly in the main draw) and generate epic battles from the first match to the last.

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The event at Rosarito Beach will start with a 16-team qualifier on Wednesday. Just four teams per gender will progress to the main draw, with pool play following on Thursday. With just the best two teams in each of the four pools advancing to the elimination round, every single match will matter.

The weekend will be reserved for the elimination and medal round matches, with the quarterfinals and semifinals taking place on Saturday and the gold and bronze medal matches scheduled for Sunday. The Elite 16 tournaments offer the most ranking points (1200 for the winning teams in each gender) and prize money (USD 300,000) on the Beach Pro Tour.

The Rosarito Elite 16 event will feature a stellar lineup including a total of 56 teams from 20 different countries. Four Olympic champions, nine world champions, 16 Olympic medallists and 56 Olympians will be among the players competing on Mexico's western coast.

Following a qualifier that will feature three players who were medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympics – gold medal winner Alison Cerutti of Brazil and silver medallists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy (who are now playing with different partners) – the main draw phase of the tournament will begin on Thursday.

Some highly exciting encounters, which could easily repeat in Sunday’s gold medal matches, are set to take place on the very first day of the tournament. One of them - in Pool B - will reunite the reigning European champions Nina Brunner (formerly Betschart) and Tanja Huberli of Switzerland and Tokyo Olympic champion April Ross and her new American partner Emily Day.

Another highlight on the opening day of the women’s tournament will be an all-Brazilian encounter between Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa/Ana Patricia Ramos and Barbara Seixas/Carol Salgado in Pool A. This will be the first match for top-seeded pair Duda and Ana Patricia as partners and they will meet a team of veteran compatriots who showed they are in great form by winning the Tlaxcala Challenge event on Sunday.

On the men’s side of the tournament, the first match for Tokyo Olympic champions Anders Mol and Christian Sorum of Norway will certainly be one to watch. The Beach Volley Vikings will face Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb in the Pool B opener, in a repeat of the bronze medal match at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

World ranking leaders Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are also set for a difficult opening match in Pool B. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists will have tough opponents coming their way in the form of Brazilian Olympians Evandro Goncalves and Alvaro Filho. Evandro was a world champion in 2017 with Andre Loyola, and Alvaro won silver with Ricardo Santos and the World Championships in 2013.