Friedl and Zobrist, Kindl and Seiser, Ruysschaert and Vandesteene, and Vandecaveye and Vandecaveye celebrate as first winners
The 2023 national beach volleyball tours began in two European countries over the weekend, with Franziska Friedl and Shana Zobrist (pictured above, photo credits: Gert Nepel), and Moritz Kindl and Mathias Seiser celebrating as women’s and men’s winners in Neusiedl am See, Austria, while Britt Ruysschaert and Els Vandesteene, as well as Louis Vandecaveye and Gilles Vandecaveye, topped the podiums in Haacht, Belgium.
A surprising partnership between 25-year-old Austrian Franziska Friedl, a bronze medallist at the 2022 Budapest Futures on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, and 22-year-old Shana Zobrist of Switzerland, also a Beach Pro Tour Futures regular, proved successful at the first Masters stop on this year’s Austrian national tour.
In the women’s final, Friedl and Zobrist produced a hard-fought 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 19-17) upset of 34-year-old Czech stars Helena Havelkova and Marketa Slukova to top the podium.
“Cool! It’s just unbelievable that we were able to play against this world-class team in our first tournament together. It was great to have Shana by my side. There were also many friends and family there to cheer us on. It's a very special and indescribable feeling,” said Friedl in an ORF interview.
After finishing Pool A as runners-up, the Swiss-Austrian pairing won their eighthfinal and quarterfinal matches without dropping a set. To advance to the final, they took a semifinal victory over the team that had defeated them in the Pool A final, Katharina Schutzenhofer and Lena Plesiutschnig, after the opponents withdrew due to injury.
Former Czech indoor star Helena Havelkova, who recently switched to beach volleyball in pursuit of her Olympic dream, and three-time beach volleyball Olympian and multiple FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour gold medallist Marketa Slukova reached the final four in Neusiedl on the wave of three straight-set victories. In the semifinals, they lost their first set of the tournament, but emerged with a 2-1 (21-17, 17-21, 15-13) win over Czech compatriots Miroslava Dunarova and Daniela Resova.
Dunarova and Resova took the bronze after being awarded the victory in the third place match because of Schutzenhofer withdrawal. Last year, the Czech duo took bronze at the Cortegaça Futures in Portugal.
Women’s main draw results and standings
Action from the men’s final in Neusiedl (Photo credits: Gert Nepel)
In the men’s final, Mathias Seiser and Moritz Kindl, who won the Vaduz 1-star on the 2019 World Tour, achieved a straight-set 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) victory over Lithuania’s Patrikas Stankevicius and Audrius Knasas, who won two Futures golds on the 2022 Beach Pro Tour. After losing to Czechia’s Tomas Semerad and Jakub Sepka in the Pool C final, 28-year-old Seiser and 24-year-old Kindl won four games in a row to claim the trophy. In the semifinals, they achieved a 2-1 (21-18, 19-21, 15-11) victory over Austrian compatriots Maximilian Trummer and Christoph Dressler.
To get to the final, Stankevicius and Knasas went on a four-game winning streak, crowned by a 2-1 (21-18, 17-21, 15-11) victory over Olympian Robin Seidl’s recently formed tandem with Moritz Pristauz, who made their Beach Pro Tour debut as a team with a La Paz Challenge bronze in March. Seidl and Pristauz went on to snatch the bronze after a 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) sweep of Trummer and Dressler in the third place match.
Men’s main draw results and standings
The next Masters stop on the Austrian national tour will be in Seewalchen am Attersee from 13 to 16 July.
30-year-old Louis Vandecaveye and 27-year-old Gilles Vandecaveye, silver medallists from last year’s Ljubljana Futures, lived up to their top seed status to win the men’s tournament at this year’s first event on the Belgian national tour held in Haacht. They went through their five games in the 12-team main draw undefeated to claim gold. In Sunday’s final, the Vandecaveye brothers hammered out a 2-0 (21-12, 21-19) shutout of Tim Lemmens and Anshel Ver Eecke, who took silver. Both teams who lost the semifinal matches, Yentl Van der Aa and Thomas Van Reeth, and Jeroen Oprins and Mathias Blondeel, took bronze medals without playing a third place match.
Three tie-breaker battles marked the end of the women’s tournament. In the semifinals, Britt Ruysschaert and Els Vandesteene delivered a 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 15-10) comeback win over Annelore Bex and Ines Piret, while Jade Van Deun and Youna Coens produced a 2-1 (16-21 21-17, 15-11) turnaround against Bente Daniels and Lana Mees. In the big final, 35-year-old Vandesteene and 28-year-old Ruysschaert mounted another comeback from a set down to celebrate a 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-13) victory over 19-year-old Van Deun and 18-year-old Coens.
The Belgian national tour continues this week with an event in Hechtel-Eksel.