Will the Brazilian ladies dominate in Doha? Is Duda the best player in the world and will she prove it again in Qatar? Those are some of the questions beach volleyball fans will ask themselves ahead of the women’s competition at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Finals this week, from January 26 through 29.
How likely is Brazilian domination in Doha?
Publicado 08:00, 26 Jan 2023
Eduarda Santos Lisboa (Duda) entered the 2022 season in the number one spot in the FIVB World Ranking, together with Agatha Bednarczuk, who had taken a baby break. Naturally, by mid-April, they had lost the top spot in the chart. Duda, however, had reunited with Ana Patricia Ramos, her partner from the time when the two became Youth Olympic champions at Nanjing 2014 and two-time U21 world champions in 2016 and 2017, and the two were gradually making their way back to the top.
Duda and Ana Patricia won their first major gold of the year at the highest possible level, June’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Rome. They followed up with gold medals at the Gstaad Elite16 in July and the Uberlandia Elite16 in November, adding to the three bronze medals they picked up on the Beach Pro Tour. After their podium in Cape Town, they took over the top of the ranking. So Duda started the year as number one with one partner and finished it as number one with another, which gives her a reasonable claim for today’s best player in the world.
Another Brazilian pair, Barbara Seixas and Carol Solberg currently occupies the number two spot in the World Ranking. The U18 world silver medallists in 2003 and 2004 re-started their partnership in 2021 and, about a year later, they stormed the Beach Pro Tour by winning gold at the inaugural event in Tlaxcala. They earned another Challenge gold in Doha and followed up with Elite16 silvers in Jurmala and Gstaad. After the tournament in Switzerland in July, they took the top spot in the ranking and held on to it until compatriots Duda and Ana Patricia took it away from them.
Only five teams managed to defeat Duda and Ana Patricia on the Beach Pro Tour in 2022 and two of them are in Pool A with the world champs at the Finals in Doha. Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallists Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar of Australia, currently number four in the world, shut out the Brazilians in their last pool match at the Ostrava Elite16 in May, knocking them out of contention. It was the only time the two pairs met before they meet again in Doha pool play on Friday at 19:00 local time (16:00 UTC).
Anastasija Samoilova and Tina Graudina of Latvia managed to beat Duda and Ana Patricia in an extended tie-breaker the last time the two teams met, in a Paris Elite16 semifinal in October. However, the South Americans had won all six of their previous encounters, including as many as five times on the Beach Pro Tour 2022. In an interesting clash between the reigning world and European champions, Duda and Ana Patricia will take on Anastasija and Tina on Saturday in the closing match in Pool A at 14:00 (11:00).
The other two teams in the pool, USA’s Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss and brand new Canadian pair Sarah Pavan and Sophie Bukovec have yet to look for a way to beat Duda and Ana Patricia, although Pavan managed to do that once with her previous partner Melissa Humana-Paredes in the Jurmala semis. Kloth and Nuss tried it once in Paris, but lost in the tie-breaker.
While Duda and Ana Patricia are more or less the favourites in Pool A, that’s hardly the case for Barbara and Carol in Pool B, as they suffered Beach Pro Tour damages against almost all of their pool opponents. The playing field is really level and trying to predict the outcome would be a mission impossible.
Currently in number three and very close behind Barbara and Carol, Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon were the only non-Brazilian team to be World Ranking leaders during 2022 (from April to July). The Dutch and the Brazilians met three times, with Barbara and Carol winning in the Tlaxcala final and in Paris pool play, and Stam and Schoon claiming victory in the pool phase in Ostrava. A much anticipated fourth encounter will take place on Friday at 18:00 (15:00).
Also in Ostrava, the South Americans were knocked out by Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Muller to level the head-to-head between the two teams at one win each. The balance will shift one way or the other when Barbara and Carol take on the seventh-ranked Germans in Doha on Thursday’s opening day at 18:00 (15:00).
Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli’s head-to-head against Barbara and Carol is also balanced at one victory apiece. The first time they met was at the Ostrava four-star quarterfinals on the 2021 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, and the Brazilians won in three sets. The Swiss got back at their opponents with a straight-set victory in their only 2022 encounter, in the Hamburg Elite16 semifinals.
In Doha pool play, Barbara and Carol will meet the recently reunited duo Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng for the first time, but during the 2022 season, they suffered losses to each of the two Americans with their previous partners.
So although the two Brazilian pairs occupy the top two spots in the World Ranking, an all-Brazilian final in Doha is far from guaranteed. If it does happen, however, the 2022 head-to-head balance at the Beach Pro Tour and the World Championship will be heavily in favour of Duda and Ana Patricia. They beat Barbara and Carol in all four of their meetings at the world level and the only time they dropped a set was in the last match between them at the Elite16 final in Gstaad.