VIENNA, Austria – Reigning Olympic gold-medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany added “World Champions” to their growing list of accolades Saturday with a 19-21, 21-13, 15-9 victory over Americans April Ross and Lauren Fendrick.
It capped an end to the women’s action at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships with the men’s semifinals and final left to play Sunday.
Earlier Brazilians Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 21-12, 16-21, 18-16 to win the bronze medal.
In the men’s quarterfinals, it was the end of the line for Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who lost to Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilinikov and Nikita Liamin 21-15, 21-18.
Netherlands’ Maarten Van Garderen and Christiaan Varenhorst defeated Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera 20-22, 21-19, 16-14; Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola defeated Canada’s Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk 17-21, 22-20, 15-10; and hometown favorites Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst defeated Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 31-33, 21-18, 15-11 in front of a packed stadium.
Goncalves and Loyola will face Varenhorst and Van Garderen at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. Eastern), while Liamin and Krasilnikov play Doppler and Horst at 11. The bronze medal match is at 1:45 p.m and the gold at 3.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who both sustained right shoulder injuries this year, have come back in a big way. They were undefeated throughout the tournament, advanced out of a tricky pool containing three German teams, and defeated the No. 5 seed Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross as well as the No. 1 seed Larissa and Talita.
The gold-medal match was a difficult affair, as Ross and Fendrick jumped out to an 8-5 lead on two USA digs and successful transitions. The Germans inched back to even the score at 13-13. The score stayed tight the remainder of the set until Ludwig missed her serve to give the American their first set point at 20-19, followed by a service ace by Ross.
Set two was dominated by the Germans, who jumped out to 10-4 and 14-7 leads. They had five service errors in the first set but none in the second.
In the third set, the Americans’ biggest lead was 7-5. But Ludwig made two digs that were transitioned into points, plus a service ace to give her team the lead it would never lose. Then intense German serving pressure stressed the USA side-out game and Ludwig and Walkenhorst pulled away.
In the post-match press conference, in which both pairs were in attendance at the same time, Fendrick acknowledged the Germans.
“Hats off to the German team, you guys played a really tough match,” Fendrick said. “For April and I, we got together in June, that was our first tournament, then she broke her toe, and we had three weeks off, this is the first week she’s been 100 percent.
“So to come away with silver in the first week that she’s 100 percent is pretty phenomenal.”
After winning a tight first set, Ross knew that they still had their hands full.
“I knew that we still had a huge uphill battle to win if we wanted to take the match, so I didn’t count on anything after that first set,” said Ross, whose team seemed to battle back all week from being down 0-1.
“Obviously, that was one of the first first sets we won all tournament. It was a very strategic match, and we didn’t adapt as well as we had been, and Germany played amazing.
“We’re just super-stoked to get this finish and every big match you play in on the world stage is a huge learning experience, so we’re going to take away a lot from this.”
The Germans admitted they were downright scared after dropping the first set.
“It was definitely a tight match.” Ludwig said. “It was going back and forth and I think all four of us, we were holding back a little bit, maybe anxious, but they did a great job this tournament from game to game, and we just had to focus on us after the first set.
“We had to put more into the games and plays, we knew we could touch every ball, serve better. It wasn’t our best serving game in the first set, so after the break, we said ‘We have to step up and do better.’ ”
For her part, Walkenhorst was thrilled after recovering from shoulder injuries.
“I really can’t believe it,” she said. “It was a tough season. We had a lot of problems and really wanted to play well here and game by game we got better and I’m just really happy and can’t believe that we won the world championships. I’m just really happy right now.”
Dalhausser and Lucena were upset by a very physical Russian team of Liamin and Krasilnikov. In set one, the Russians jumped out to 4-0 and 12-4 leads on effective serving and defense.
The Americans made a three-point run on two Dalhausser blocks to narrow the lead to 10-14, but the Russians pulled away.
In set two, both teams stayed within two points of each other until two Dalhausser errors and a Krasilnikov tool made it 19-16. That margin would hold as Krasilnikov’s spike line found the sand for a straight-set finish.
Dalhausser acknowledged the Russian’s physicality as well as the parity overall on the world tour.
“They sided out great all match, they were the better team today, for sure,” Dalhausser said. “The world tour is very tough and there’s a lot of parity. Last week I think the 13th seed and the 24th seed were in the finals in Poland, so there’s a lot of good teams and when a team like that is playing well, you’re going to go home. It’s a perfect example this week, I think Evandro and Andre are the top-seeded team in the semifinals at number four.”
Still, Dalhausser was disappointed in his and Lucena’s play Sunday.
“We were never able to get going, really. We never played that great. It’s unfortunate, but this tournament is amazing. It’s a beautiful venue, a beautiful city, other than the fifth place finish, I’ll have good memories.”
The Americans threw just about everything they had at the Russians, but they were simply playing too well.
“The problem was that they played really well.” Dalhausser said. “They were the best team on the court today. I feel like we went from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C, and back to Plan A.”