Qatar’s young and dashing duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan pulled off a historic bronze medal on the FIVB Beach World Tour as they overcame top seeds Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the USA in three sets in the Katara Cup.
At the majestic Katara Amphitheater, the 22-year-old players from Qatar waited for their opportunities and when they came, they grabbed them with both hands to carve out a 21-19, 19-21, 15-13 triumph in 53 minutes. They winners shared $10,000, while Dalhausser and Lucena split $8,000.
Though this was the third event for Younousse and Tijan on the World Tour as a team, the third place is the best-ever finish for Qatar in 4-Star or higher event.
In 2016, Younousse and Jefferson Santos Pereira had claimed the 3-Star Kish Island title in Iran. The two were fifth in the 2015 worlds, besides getting a ninth spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 worlds in Vienna.
In previous three attempts in the Doha Open, Younousse and Tijan were 41st in 2014. Then, Ahmed was 17th twice with Assam Mahmoud and Julio Cesar do Nascimento, while Younousse and Jefferson Santos Pereira were 17th in 2015 and 25th in 2016.
“We were not scared of the Americans. We just wanted to go out and put up our best. We just focussed on each point and tried to force errors. This worked and we’re so proud of the bronze medal at the first 4-Star home tournament,” Younousse commented after the victory.
After sharing the first two sets, the stage was set for a thrilling finale and the atmosphere was charged with pressure and expectations. Younousse and Ahmed tackled the high-profile match brilliantly in the decider and kept Dalhausser, the former Olympic champion and world title winner with Todd Rogers, and Lucena.
The Qatari players forged ahead by two points for a first time (11-9) after Tijan took a touch-out. Then Ahmed again spiked a winner off Dalhausser to reach the match point after contriving a superb dig.
The Americans, who have won nine titles in 15 finals with the 2017 World Tour Finals and Fort Lauderdale Major being the highlights, managed to narrow down the margin to 13-14.
However, Younousse covered the angles well and put pressure on Lucena, who smashed long, leaving the Qataris with the memorable bronze medal. A fact that Dalhausser and Lucena have finished only once out of top 10 in 29 events on the Tour would underline how big this victory is for the Qatari pair!
“This is a fantastic result for us. This was a really tough match. They are a big team as Phil has been world and Olympic champion, besides winning many big titles on the Tour,” Younousse added.
“I’d told you after the semi-finals that we’d go all out for the podium. We’re young but we’ve quality. That is what we showed today. Hopefully with time, we’ll improve, get more confident and bring more titles and medals home in future,” Younousse said.
Tijan said, “They are one of the best teams in the world. We’re really thrilled to secure the bronze medal and we’ll cherish it long. Nobody expected us to rise to this level in the tournament but we’ve proved that we mean business.”
Cherif Younousse/ Ahmed Tijan Qatar (8) def. Phil Dalhausser/ Nick Lucena United States (1) 21-19, 19-21, 15-13 (0:52)