Facing a player ranked fifth in the world is certainly a big challenge for any athlete in the early stages of a career. That’s even more true if the match is the difference between being eliminated in the qualifier or advancing to the main draw of an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star event.
Ranked 4th in the qualifier of the first of the three World Tour events at the Cancun Hub, in Mexico, young Italians Jakob Windisch and Samuele Cottafava were faced with that situation on Friday and they didn’t back off, defeating Polish star Michal Bryl and his temporary partner Maciej Rudol 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) to secure their spot in the main draw.
Both 22, Windisch and Cottafava defeated Guatemala’s Luis Garcia and Andy Leonardo 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) in their opening match in Cancun, but it was the game against Bryl, a player with seven World Tour medals to his name and a candidate to medal at the Tokyo Games, that will resonate in their memories for quite some time.
“It’s always great to play against athletes like these because we’ve got a lot to learn from them,” Windisch said. “And it was also super windy during the match, so it was awesome to see that we not only managed to play a great game in such difficult conditions but also to walk off the court as the winners. It was perfect.”
Windisch and Cottafava have had some success in lower-level international events as the Italians won gold medals in a pair of 1-star events in Tel Aviv and Budapest in 2019. Their only appearance in a major tournament took place in that same season, when they finished 25th at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Rome.
“It was great for us to compete at the World Tour Finals but we received a wild card for the event, we didn’t really have to do anything to be there,” Windisch reflected. “This time it’s different, we earned our spots in the event and it feels great. Our goal in the main draw is to improve from match to match. We came here without having practised outdoors this season and the first sessions were really difficult because of the wind. I feel like we’re handling it better now and hopefully it continues this way.”
Also advancing from the qualifier were USA’s Theo Brunner/Chaim Schalk, Brazil’s Gustavo ‘Guto’ Carvalhaes/Arthur Mariano, Switzerland’s Marco Krattiger/Florian Breer and Quentin Metral/Yves Haussener, Estonia’s Kusti Nolvak/Mart Tisaar, Norway’s Hendrik Mol/Mathias Berntsen and Austria's Martin Ermacora/Moritz Pristauz.
The 32-team main draw starts on Saturday and the tournament continues to be streamed live on the Beach Volleyball World Youtube channel. Subscribe, log in and set reminders to receive notifications when streams begin.
Cancun Hub - 1st event
Cancun Hub - 1st event - Match schedule
Provisional Olympic ranking - Men
Provisional Olympic ranking - Women
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour