2019-03-12 15:10:00 CEST

Big guns head to Doha

It’s time for a four-star showdown in the desert

Nick Lucena (left) and Phil Dalhausser (both in white) in action in Vienna last year - their last World Tour appearanceNick Lucena (left) and Phil Dalhausser (both in white) in action in Vienna last year - their last World Tour appearance

Beach volleyball’s big guns are out in force in Doha this week as the men’s four star tournament marks the return of a number of elite athletes to the sand.

The event in Qatari capital is a proper who’s who of men’s beach volleyball, and competition will be fierce in the race to earn ranking points towards both the World Championships later this year and next year’s Olympics.

One team making their first appearance of the 2019 season are American number ones Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena. The experienced duo – both 39 – haven’t been seen on the World Tour since the Vienna Major last August. Twelve months ago Nick and Phil lost in the bronze medal match to home favorites Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan, who will have the support of the Qatari fans inside the Amphitheater.

Last year’s winners Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands aim for back-to-back titles, while Oleg Stoyanovskiy – second last year with Igor Velichko – is eyeing a second successive four-star title with new teammate Viacheslav Krasilnikov following their victory in The Hague at the turn of the year.

An injury has ruled out Anders Mol’s attempt to capture yet another gold medal, however teammate Christian Sørum does travel to the desert, and will play alongside Anders’ brother Hendrik.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a host of top Brazilian teams in town, including the two reigning Olympic and World champion combinations, Alison Cerutti and Andre Loyola and Bruno Schmidt and Evandro Gonçalves, who make their World Tour debut as duo.

Olympic silver medalists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolao go in search of their first World Tour gold medal since May 2016, with the Italians hoping to improve on their 17th place finish in The Hague in January.

It wouldn’t be a top tournament without Polish pair Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, who play their 80th event together, while veteran Austrian duo Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst are playing for the 63rd time on the same side of the sand.

Just days after their gold medal in Sydney, Chilean cousins Esteban and Marco Grimalt beat Germany’s Nils Ehlers and Lars Flüggen in straight sets in qualification to seal a spot in the main draw. It wasn’t to be, however, for the silver medalists at the weekend in Manly, as Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi were defeated in three sets in their qualifier against Iaroslav Gordieiev and Sergiy Popov of Ukraine.

Also making it through from the qualification stage were Estonians Kusti Nolvak and Mart Tiisaar after an excellent straight sets triumph over Canada’s Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman. Beach legend Ricardo and teammate Alvaro Filho also made it through to make it five Brazilian pairings in the pool play.

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