Younousse, Tijan grind three wins, qualify for Katara Cup semis

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The new Qatari pair of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan, both 22, showcased their calibre and craft as they ground out three back-to-back wins, two of them in three sets, and booked a spot in the 4-Star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup on Thursday.

At the Katara Amphitheater, the eighth seeds began with a 21-19-21-14 win over Canadians 11th seeds Sam Schachter and Sam Pedlow in the first round. They followed it up by taming giant-killers from Norway Anders Mol and Christian Sorum by 18-21, 21-18, 20-18 in 50 minutes.

They wrapped up the day in high spirits with another thrilling 15-21, 21-16, 15-10 triumph over Polish Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek, the 12th seeds, in 47 minutes to enter their first semi-final on the FIVB World Tour.

For a place in the final on Saturday, Yonousse and Tijan will clash with Dutch ninth seeds Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen at 2.30 pm. This is their first clash on the Tour. Brouwer and Meeuwsen are chasing their second World Tour medal of the year, having won the bronze at the Dela Beach Open in The Hague in January.

The other semi-final will be contested by top seeds Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from the US and Russians Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Igor Velichko, the 15th seeds. The US pair won two previous events and eyeing the third title in a row.

An excited Younousse said after the match, “This is a big step forward for us as a team. We’re playing just our fourth event together but we’ve trained hard and have a big belief in each other.

“We’re trying to improve in each match and the proof of this is our semi-final place in the 4-Star event. That too at home,” he added.

Talking about having to figure in three matches in a day, he said, “Today was a difficult day for us as we’d to play three matches. But we displayed our mettle. Before the tournament, nobody thought about us getting a place in the last four in Katara. However, we did it.”

“We’re very happy with our achievement but we’re not done yet. We’ll play as hard as possible and see what happens in the semi-finals,” Younousse said.

This event is the fourth for Younousse and Tijan together and their previous best was a ninth-place finish in The Hague 4-Star earlier this year. Younousse played with Jefferson Santos Pereira before and they won the 2016 Kish Island in Iran, besides finishing fifth in the 2015 worlds and followed it up with a ninth spot in the 2017 worlds. They were also ninth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Tijan earlier partnered with Julio Cesaz do Nascimento. Apart from winning a couple of titles on the continental tour, they were twice second in the Agadir (1-Star) and Espinho (2-Star) events. He joined Younousse after his fifth place in the 3-Star Quinzho event in October last year.

The top seeds clashed in one of the quarter-finals and it was Americans No. 1 Dalhausser and Lucena, who advanced when No. 2 Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor from Poland pulled out due to an injury in the third set.

Dalhausser and Lucena, who were runners-up in Doha in 2015, won the marathon opener at 37-35 and the Polish pair tied it winning the second. In the decider, Kantor felt uneasy and had to withdraw when the Americans were 9-6 ahead.

Dalhausser and Lucena will clash with the new team of Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Igor Velichko. The 15th seeds from Russia were ninth in the Fort Lauderdale Major, which Dalhausser and Lucena won in three attempts.

With nine titles in 16 finals on the Tour, the Americans are favourites but Stoyanovskiy and Velichko, who knocked out fifth seeds Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins from 21-15, 21-13 in less than half an hour, may feel inspired after managing to reach the semis in their second event and cause a major flutter.

The Qatar Volleyball Association has planned a match between two popular teams of the Indian and Filipino communities at the scenic Katara Amphitheater at 1.30 pm.

Results

Round 1

Saymon Barbosa / Alvaro Filho Brazil (22) def. Lombardo Ontiveros / Juan Virgen Mexico (13) 17-21, 21-17, 15-12 (0:51)

Alexander Brouwer / Robert Meeuwsen Netherlands (9) def. Mariusz Prudel / Jakub Szalankiewicz Poland (20) 21-17, 21-15 (0:33)

Pablo Herrera / Adrian Gavira Spain (7) def. Paolo Nicolai / Daniele Lupo Italy (3) 21-15, 21-17 (0:32)

Cherif Younousse / Ahmed Tijan Qatar (8) def. Sam Schachter / Sam Pedlow Canada (11) 21-19, 21-14 (0:33)

Phil Dalhausser / Nick Lucena United States (1) def. Grant O’Gorman / Ben Saxton Canada (14) 21-15, 21-15 (0:37)

Bartosz Losiak / Piotr Kantor Poland (2) def. Kacper Kujawiak / Maciej Rudol Poland (28, Q12) 21-17, 21-17 (0:32)

Aleksandrs Samoilovs / Janis Smedins Latvia (5) def. Alex Ranghieri / Marco Caminati Italy (18, Q1) 21-18, 29-27 (0:53)

Youssef Krou / Quincy Aye France (26, Q8) def. Dries Koekelkoren / Tom van Walle Belgium (17) 21-19, 21-16 (0:36)

Round 2

Saymon Barbosa / Alvaro Filho Brazil (22) def. Taylor Crabb / Jake Gibb United States (16) 19-21, 21-18, 18-16 (1:05)

Alexander Brouwer / Robert Meeuwsen Netherlands (9) def. John Hyden / Theo Brunner United States (10) 27-25, 21-17 (0:38)

Michal Bryl / Grzegorz Fijalek Poland (12) def. Pablo Herrera / Adrian Gavira Spain (7) 21-19, 21-19 (0:40)

Cherif Younousse / Ahmed Tijan Qatar (8) def. Anders Mol / Christian Sorum Norway (19) 18-21, 21-18, 20-18 (0:50)

Phil Dalhausser / Nick Lucena United States (1) def. Viacheslav Krasilnikov / Nikita Liamin Russia (4) 21-17, 21-15 (0:35)

Bartosz Losiak / Piotr Kantor Poland (2) def. Martins Plavins / Edgars Tocs Latvia (6) 21-18, 21-17 (0:34)

Aleksandrs Samoilovs / Janis Smedins Latvia (5) def. Ryan Doherty / Billy Allen United States (25, Q4) 21-16, 21-18 (0:33)

Oleg Stoyanovskiy / Igor Velichko Russia (15) def. Youssef Krou / Quincy Aye France (26, Q8) 21-16, 21-11 (0:29)

Round 3

Alexander Brouwer / Robert Meeuwsen Netherlands (9) def. Saymon Barbosa / Alvaro Filho Brazil (22) 19-21, 21-19, 22-20 (1:05)

Cherif Younousse / Ahmed Tijan Qatar (8) def. Michal Bryl / Grzegorz Fijalek Poland (12) 15-21, 21-16, 15-10 (0:47)

Phil Dalhausser / Nick Lucena United States (1) def. Bartosz Losiak / Piotr Kantor Poland (2) 37-35, 13-21, 9-6 retired (1:04)

Oleg Stoyanovskiy / Igor Velichko Russia (15) def. Aleksandrs Samoilovs / Janis Smedins Latvia (5) 21-15, 21-13 (0:29)

Friday’s fixtures

Semi-finals

2:30 pm – Phil Dalhausser / Nick Lucena United States (1) vs. Oleg Stoyanovskiy / Igor Velichko Russia (15)

3:30 pm – Alexander Brouwer / Robert Meeuwsen Netherlands (9) vs. Cherif Younousse / Ahmed Tijan Qatar (8)