2017-12-28 16:00:00 CET

Exclusive: Mr Skyball is smiling again

It's all change for Adrian Carambula...

Adrian in action at the World Championships in ViennaAdrian in action at the World Championships in Vienna

When Adrian Carambula wrote underneath a Facebook post of ours promoting Ben Saxton’s Stages of a Beach Volleyball Relationship feature, we knew something was wrong.

“Divorce stage!” wrote the Italian known around the world as Mr Skyball.

So we got in touch. Adrian told us the news: His partnership with Alex Ranghieri is over and with it a hugely popular double act is no more after three years on the sand.

The big question is what’s next for one of beach volleyball’s most unique players?

“My new partner will be Enrico Cester,” Carambula told us. “He’s a middle hitter for one of Italy’s most successful indoor volleyball clubs, Macerata.

“He’s not played beach volleyball before but he’s 204 cm tall, he’s got fast feet and he can jump. He’s got that killer instinct and I think after half-a-season of training he can be a real force.”

The pair will call themselves ‘Gemelli Diversi’ – the twins. Both Adrian and Enrico share exactly the same birthday, March 16, 1988.

Beach fans, however, will have to wait to see the new team performing as Cester will continue playing his indoor season with Macerata until April.

“We have to respect his contract with Lube Macerata,” explains Carambula. “It’s important to acknowledge Cester’s commitments to his team, so we will have to be a little patient.”

Until that time, Adrian will partner another player, Gabriele Pasquale – but what is certain is that the 29-year-old’s time on the beach with Ranghieri is done.

Carambula and Ranghieri enjoyed a fine first two seasons together, not only qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016, but also winning two gold medals on the World Tour and a bronze medal in the first ever Beach Major Series event in Poreč in 2015.

But for Adrian, who joined the international scene in 2015 to play for Italy having previously starred on the AVP Tour, he is looking forward to starting a new partnership in 2018.

“I was in a bad funk with everything that was happening with Alex,” admits Carambula. “I wasn’t enjoying it. Me and Alex always had difference of opinion and this year we didn’t get results that we were getting last year. It was difficult because it was becoming quite obvious that me and Alex weren’t getting along. For me I need to be focused on court and I need to be able to communicate with my partner – I need a teammate beside me when the ship goes down.

“There was a time when I was concerned because in Italy there are not many other blockers around to play with. There’s Paolo Nicolai and Alex. There was nothing out there telling me there was light at the end of the tunnel and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Thankfully I was introduced to Enrico and I was transformed and now I’m hungry.”

With nothing to lose with Alex out of the picture, Carambula was introduced to Enrico after his friend Michele Mastronardi sent him see his coach Giulio Mosci.

“I went with no expectations,” says Adrian, who once played soccer for the same youth team as Barcelona’s Luis Suarez when a youngster in his native Uruguay. “It was a very casual conversation. I listened to what he had to say. He explained he had a name in mind for me – Enrico – and then outlined the project and the aims.”

Despite the disappointment of the ‘divorce’ with Ranghieri, Carambula never fell out of love with the sport he has so much passion for.

“Even at the lowest points, I sat there at tournaments and watched other matches,” says the 29-year-old from Montevideo. “Beach volleyball is amazing, I love training and the relationship with the ball.

“That’s how it started for me, moving to the United States, going to the beach and joining in people playing beach volleyball.”

Even though a new partnership is about to begin, Carambula will not be leaving behind the ace up his sleeve – the aerial delight of the sky serve.

It’s a skill that has followed him around the world and garnered him admirers from every corner of the globe – but Adrian is keen to point out he’s not a one-trick pony.

“I was in a top 10 team for two years straight and getting served every game!” he laughs. “Everyone knows in beach volleyball that you can’t reach semifinals with just a serve as part of your game but it’s cool because I would see clips from fans around the world – India, Indonesia and places I’d never heard of – doing the skyball. It’s cool, it always surprises me. Nobody can be me but everyone can be Mr Skyball.”

While Ranghieri will team-up with Marco Caminati – the duo are entered into the four-star tournament in The Hague in January – Carambula will play the waiting game before he can return to the sand.

But, just like thousands of beach fans around the world, Adrian’s fingers are crossed that he’ll soon be able to showcase his unique sky serve with a new partner by his side – but more importantly, he’ll be flinging the ball skywards with a smile on his face.

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