The FIVB four-star Rio Open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, kicked off in earnest Wednesday at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Barra de Tijuca, one of two four-star events on the FIVB calendar for 2017.

In the only country quota match, 2012 Olympics silver-medalist Juliana Felisberta  and partner Carolina Salgado defeated Maria Antonelli and Carolina Horta 23-21, 19-21, 16-14 to earn the last spot in the qualifier for Brazil.

Eight teams  advance to Thursday’s modified pool play. Single-elimination playoffs begin Friday with the medal rounds Sunday.

The field is highlighted by the return to Rio of all of the men’s Olympic medalists. Gold-medalists Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, silver-medalists Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo of Italy and bronze-medalists Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands.

They will be joined by Americans Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson, seeded 14th, and No. 17 Ryan Doherty and John Hyden. Brunner and Patterson finished ninth in the five-star Fort Lauderdale FIVB event and third in AVP Huntington Beach two weeks ago, while Doherty and Hyden finished fourth in Fort Lauderdale, a disappointing 17th in Kish, Iran, and second in Huntington Beach. No Americans entered the tournament through qualification, preferring to compete in this weekend’s AVP Austin event.

The FIVB four-star event in Rio de Janeiro is held on a converted tennis court in Barra de Tijuca/FIVB photo

The home country is allowed to enter a fourth team in the main draw without having to qualify. Accordingly, the Brazilian men’s main-draw contingent includes gold-medalist Cerutti and Schmidt, Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa, Evandro Goncalves and Andrew Loyola and Pedro Solberg and Gustavo Carvalhaes.

Filho and Barbosa won the Fort Lauderdale event out of the qualifier, going unbeaten. Goncalves and Loyola finished second. The serve of the 6-foot-11 Goncalves, when on, may be the most feared shot in beach volleyball. Solberg and Carvalhaes are both Rio natives and should be very comfortable in their surroundings.

The international field is filled with dangerous teams, including 23rd-seeded Sergio Gonzalez and Nivaldo Diaz of Cuba, who were the surprise of the 2016 Olympics, finishing fifth after impressive wins over Goncalves/Solberg of Brazil, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia, Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk of Canada and Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria. And look up for the skyball of former Florida resident Adrian Carambula, returning to FIVB competition as the 15th seed with the athletic Alex Ranghieri.

On the women’s side, Rio marks the return of gold-medalist Laura Ludwig of Germany, who underwent shoulder surgery five months ago, and recently trained in Manhattan Beach for two weeks with, among others, Kerri Walsh Jennings. Ludwig, seeded second with partner Kira Walkenhorst, won a domestic competition in Munster, Germany, with a 27-29, 21-19, 25-23 win over Chantal Laboreur and Julia Sude in the final.

Top-seeded Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes, fourth in the Olympics, lead the Brazilian squad, having won the Fort Lauderdale event earlier this year. Agatha Bednarczuk and 18-year-old phenom Eduarda Lisboa are seeded fourth after their silver in Fort Lauderdale. Bednarczuk’s former partner, Barbara Seixas, is seeded fifth with Fernanda Alves. Seixas, a 2015 world champion, was unable to compete in the Olympics due to country quota eligibility. Elize Maia and Taiana Lima, a wild card into the main draw, are seeded ninth. Lima is one of the most explosive defenders on the tour.

The USA is represented by 15th-seeded Lane Carico and Lauren Fendrick, whose debut in AVP Huntington netted them a third. Fendrick represented the USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics, placing 19th with Brooke Sweat. Newly graduated USC alums Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes are seeded 20th following their three-peat as national champions and their gold medal win at the USA Beach Collegiate Pairs championships.

Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar are seeded 23rd, after their ninth-place finish in Fort Lauderdale and their AVP Huntington championship. Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman were unable to reach the main draw with a 21-17, 21-15 loss to fifth-seeded Kinga Kolosinska and Jagoda Gruszczynska of Poland.

Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves loads up for a serve/Ed Chan,
Men’s Qualifier Bracket
Round 1
Match 1: Oscar Brandao / Hevaldo Moreira Brazil (Q16) def. Christopher McHugh / Damien Schumann Australia (Q1) 21-19, 21-17 (0:32)
Match 2: Maarten Van Garderen / Christiaan Varenhorst Netherlands (Q8) vs. Vitor Felipe / Fernando Magalhaes Brazil (Q9)
Match 3: Christoph Dressler / Thomas Kunert Austria (Q5) vs. Sean Faiga / Ariel Hilman Israel (Q12)
Match 4: Esteban Grimalt / Marco Grimalt Chile (Q4) def. Romain Di Giantommaso / Maxime Thiercy France (Q13) 21-15, 21-10 (0:29)
Match 5: Mathias Berntsen / Christian Sorum Norway (Q3) def. Chris Gregory / Jake Sheaf England (Q14) 21-15, 21-8 (0:28)
Match 6: Julian Horl / Alexander Huber Austria (Q11) def. Nico Beeler / Marco Krattiger Switzerland (Q6) 21-19, 21-18 (0:32)
Match 7: Robin Seidl / Tobias Winter Austria (Q10) def. Armin Dollinger / Jonathan Erdmann Germany (Q7) 21-18, 21-15 (0:34)
Match 8: Maciej Rudol / Jakub Szalankiewicz Poland (Q2) def. Bennet Poniewaz / David Poniewaz Germany (Q15) 21-11, 15-21, 15-12 (0:48)

Thursday’s round 1 of pool play
Pool A
Match 1: Saymon Barbosa/Alvaro Filho Brazil (1) vs. Quincy Aye/Youssef Krou France (32)
Match 2: Ryan Doherty/John Hyden United States (16) vs. Oleg Stoyanovskiy/Artem Yarzutkin Russia (17)
Pool B
Match 3: Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt Brazil (2) vs. Sean Faiga/Ariel Hilman Israel (31, Q12)
Match 4: Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen Mexico (15) vs. Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri Italy (18)
Pool C
Match 5: Evandro Goncalves/Andre Loyola Brazil (3) vs. Julian Horl/Alexander Huber Austria (30, Q11)
Match 6: Michal Bryl/Grzegorz Fijalek Poland (14) vs. Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst Austria (19)
Pool D
Match 7: Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen Netherlands (4) vs. Oscar Brandao/Hevaldo Moreira Brazil (29, Q16)
Match 8: Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson United States (13) vs. Grant O’Gorman/Michael Plantinga Canada (20)
Pool E
Match 9: Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes/Pedro Solberg Brazil (5) vs. Robin Seidl/Tobias Winter Austria (28, Q10)
Match 10: Sam Pedlow/Sam Schachter Canada (12) vs. Kacper Kujawiak/Mariusz Prudel Poland (21)
Pool F
Match 11: Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak Poland (6) vs. Maarten Van Garderen/Christiaan Varenhorst Netherlands (27, Q8)
Match 12: Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb United States (11) vs. Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen Germany (22)
Pool G
Match 13: Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera Spain (7) vs. Esteban Grimalt/Marco Grimalt Chile (26, Q4)
Match 14: Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Nikita Liamin Russia (10) vs. Nivaldo Diaz/Sergio Gonzalez Cuba (23)
Pool H
Match 15: Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk Canada (8) vs. Mathias Berntsen/Christian Sorum Norway (25, Q3)
Match 16: Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai Italy (9) vs. Maciej Rudol/Jakub Szalankiewicz Poland (24, Q2)   

Women’s Country Quota Match
Match 1: Juliana Felisberta / Carolina Salgado Brazil (Q2) def. Maria Antonelli / Carolina Horta Brazil 23-21, 19-21, 16-14 (0:56)

Women’s Qualifier Bracket
Round 1
Match 1: Josemari Alves / Liliane Maestrini Brazil (Q1) def. Yulia Abalakina / Ksenia Dabizha Russia (Q16) 18-21, 21-19, 17-15 (0:49)
Match 2: Manon Nummerdor-Flier / Marleen Van Iersel Netherlands (Q8) def. Katharina Schutzenhofer / Stefanie Schwaiger Austria (Q9) 21-13, 21-13 (0:33)
Match 3: Jagoda Gruszczynska / Kinga Kolosinska Poland (Q5) def. Kim DiCello / Emily Stockman United States (Q12) 21-17, 21-15 (0:36)
Match 4: Jolien Sinnema / Joy Stubbe Netherlands (Q4) def. Victoria Kjolberg / Ane Tveit Hjortland Norway (Q13) 21-15, 18-21, 15-11 (0:46)
Match 5: Nadja Glenzke / Julia Grossner Germany (Q3) def. Nicole Eiholzer / Dunja Gerson Switzerland (Q14) 21-15, 21-17 (0:31)
Match 6: Miki Ishii / Megumi Murakami Japan (Q11) def. Phoebe Bell / Nicole Laird Australia (Q6) 21-15, 21-11 (0:30)
Match 7: Alexandra Jupiter / Ophelie Lusson France (Q10) def. Julie Gordon / Camille Saxton Canada (Q7) 21-17, 21-18 (0:35)
Match 8: Juliana Felisberta / Carolina Salgado Brazil (Q2) def. Pilar Mardones / Francisca Rivas Chile (Q15) 21-13, 21-11 (0:30)
Thursday’s round 1 of pool play
Pool A
Match 1: Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca Brazil (1) vs. Miki Ishii/Megumi Murakami Japan (32, Q11)
Match 2: Lane Carico/Lauren Fendrick United States (16) vs. Elsa Baquerizo/Angela Lobato Spain (17)
Pool B
Match 3: Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst Germany (2) vs. Alexandra Jupiter/Ophelie Lusson France (31, Q10)
Match 4: Joana Heidrich/Anouk Verge-Depre Switzerland (15) vs. Juliana Felisberta/Carolina Salgado Brazil (18, Q2)
Pool C
Match 5: Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude Germany (3) vs. Lena Plesiutschnig/Teresa Strauss Austria (30)
Match 6: Josemari Alves/Liliane Maestrini Brazil (14, Q1) vs. Valentyna Davidova/Ievgeniia Shchypkova Ukraine (19)
Pool D
Match 7: Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa Brazil (4) vs. Manon Nummerdor-Flier/Marleen Van Iersel Netherlands (29, Q8)
Match 8: Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson Canada (13) vs. Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider Germany (20)
Pool E
Match 9: Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas Brazil (5) vs. Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar United States (28)
Match 10: Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel Netherlands (12) vs. Anastasia Barsuk/Evgeniya Ukolova Russia (21)
Pool F
Match 11: Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy Australia (6) vs. Jagoda Gruszczynska/Kinga Kolosinska Poland (27, Q5)
Match 12: Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan Canada (11) vs. Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes United States (22)
Pool G
Match 13: Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova Czech Republic (7) vs. Jolien Sinnema/Joy Stubbe Netherlands (26, Q4)
Match 14: Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug Argentina (10) vs. Marta Menegatti/Rebecca Perry Italy (23)
Pool H
Match 15: Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli Switzerland (8) vs. Ekaterina Birlova/Nadezda Makroguzova Russia (25)
Match 16: Taiana Lima/Elize Maia Brazil (9) vs. Nadja Glenzke/Julia Grossner Germany (24, Q3)    


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