Four days after winning her first-ever gold medal on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour at the Baden Open, Tanja Hüberli is back home in the Swiss capital celebrating her 28th birthday.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Hüberli's birthday week celebration started Sunday in Austria when she and Nina Betschart defeated compatriots Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre for the gold medal at the Baden Open where the Swiss pair also scored victories over FIVB World Tour ranked teams from Germany (Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider) and Italy (Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth).
On a day before her birthday, Hüberli said she "accepted the gold medal as Nina's present. Winning Baden feels great and I'm really happy! We could play some good sets and matches, but not everything went perfectly! The key was we could score the important points when it came to the decision on who would win the match!"
Listed eighth on the World Tour standings before the FIVB froze the rankings in mid-March due to the pandemic, Hüberli also noted that she and Betschart "had a great time in practice when we had no competition. We enjoyed spending time together and we were working hard to use this time to improve our game."
As for today, Hüberli said she will "probably not do too much in terms of celebrating. Maybe a little BBQ with my closest friends. I start today practicing with Nina and maybe go to Zurich to visit my family in the evening."
In playing her first FIVB event in Baden after last appearing internationally at a World Tour stop last August in Moscow, Hüberli said she "started with the semester at my university right when the lockdown started, so I was busy with studying and we started practising early in May, so it was an intensive time for me!"
As for the Tokyo Olympics being delayed a year, with she and Betschart close to qualifying for their first Summer Games, Hüberli said "it was without any doubt the right decision! And for some reason, I never had problems with accepting that or to find motivation to practise again without knowing when we will have competition again. I guess it has something to do with the situation I was in last December, when I realized how unimportant sport is when it comes to serious health problems. And on the other hand, I have so much fun being on the court with Nina and our coaches, so we took it as a chance to improve ourselves and get better for the upcoming competitions!"
When asked about memories about playing on her birthday in 2015 with Tanja Goricanec at a World Tour event in Poland against Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez, Hüberli said "I think we lost to the Spaniards. I remember more about playing in junior tournaments in Switzerland. I was excited when I realized it was on my birthday, but after I realized that I couldn't enjoy it as much as when I had no competition!"
Hüberli, who had a late start of her beach volleyball career at the age of 17, said she had "no idols until I started playing on Tour. I was impressed about Kira's (Walkenhorst from Germany) blocking and how much pressure she put on the attackers!" Walkenhorst, who is returning to beach volleyball this season, has a 6-1 record against her idolizing Swiss rival with three of those wins registered in 2016 with Betschart as Hüberli's partner.
As for memorable World Tour moments, Hüberli says "Gstaad 2019 was my highlight! We had a great run at the World Champs in Hamburg, so the Swiss fans and us were all really excited. And we enjoyed that week so much. To play at home right after the World Champs and to make it into the semis again, that was a crazy week! In no other tournament in the world would we have been in the semifinals again after this crazy week in Hamburg!"
Seeded 17th at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, Hüberli and Betschart reached the semifinal by upsetting the Brazilian pairs of fourth-seeded Rebecca Cavalcanti/Ana Patricia Silva 2-1 (19-21, 21-15, 15-12) in 46 minutes and 12th-seeded Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-13) in 63 minutes.
In the Hamburg medal rounds, Hüberli and Betschart had their opportunities to derail the efforts by eventual gold medal winners Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan by dropping a 2-1 (23-21, 17-21, 19-17) semifinal decision in 67 minutes to the ninth-seeded Canadians. In the bronze medal match, the Swiss dropped a 20 (21-18, 22-20) match in 51 minutes to ninth-seeded Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy of Austria.
Hüberli also lists the FIVB Croatia stop in Porec as one of her favourites. "I loved Porec," she said. "It was directly at the sea; the climate was very nice and the organization for sure was great as well!"
As for her future in beach volleyball, Hüberli said "Paris 2024 is for sure on my map. Thinking about Los Angeles 2028 is too far away, and I'll see how motivated I'll still be by that time!"