FIVB Vienna Major

FIVB Vienna Major: The Beach Volleyball World is Better With Brazil Back in it


Photo: FIVB

It is not an easy thing for an American beach volleyball fan to admit, that the beach volleyball world is better when the Brazilian federation – one or two teams, at least – is playing well, but the Vienna Major was evidence of exactly that.

The past few years have been an odd few for Brazil. After Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt won 11 events in three seasons, from 2014-16, including a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, Brazil, arguably the biggest beach volleyball powerhouse in the world, was conspicuously absent.

Andre and Evandro had a phenomenal run through 2017, yes, one that was capped with a World Championship in Vienna and a silver in Hamburg. At the end of the season, they were named FIVB Team of the Year.

A few months later, they broke up, sending the Brazilian federation reeling.

The year and a half that succeeded was one of the oddest perpetual partnership shuffles of any country in this Olympic cycle. Andre turned to Alison, and in three of their first four tournaments together, they finished with a pair of 25ths and a 17th. Bruno turned to Pedro Salgado, with whom he had tremendous success prior to his partnership with Alison. They never rediscovered that alchemy, failing to make a single semifinal.

And Evandro, meanwhile, the centerpiece to the shuffling, scooped Vitor Felipe, an undersized blocker who had been struggling with George Wanderley before a run of top-10s with Guto Carvalhaes.

None of it worked. Not by Brazilian standards, anyway.

It is, of course, impossible to pinpoint exactly when the Brazilian federation began to sort itself out. For an extended stretch between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, there wasn’t a single team within the top-10 of the world rankings. None appeared as an imminent threat to Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum and Russians Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov.

If there is a single tournament that could be deemed a harbinger of Brazil turning the corner, regaining its status as a power, Warsaw, Poland, would be it.

Evandro, having partnered with Bruno by then, won six straight matches, putting down Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai in pool and, in the gold medal match, Mol and Sorum. It was a delight to see Bruno returning to the form of, or at least beginning to resemble, the Bruno who was named the best defender in the world four years in a row. In that same tournament, countrymen Alison and Alvaro Filho took fifth, their second straight top-five finish.

For Alison, traditionally, a fifth isn’t much of which to boast. He’s a two-time Olympian. Won a silver and a gold. But it was a vast improvement from the former best blocker in the world, who hadn’t looked the part in a few seasons.

Andre, too, was beginning to rediscover success, having partnered with Wanderley. They didn’t even make it out of the qualifier in Warsaw, and yet, in Hamburg for the World Championships, there they were, finishing fifth, knocking out Poland’s Michael Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek in the process.

Suddenly, Brazil, the country that had seemed to have lost its teeth, had not one but three teams that could contend for a medal in a major event, and one never really can know when Saymon Barbosa and Guto will make a run, as they are wont to do.

In the four tournaments since World Champs – Gstaad, Espinho, Tokyo, Vienna – Brazil has had at least one team in the semifinals. Evandro and Bruno claimed bronze in Gstaad, Alison and Alvaro gold in Espinho and fourth in Tokyo.

In Vienna, it was all Alison and Alvaro. Really, it was all Alison.

Phil Dalhausser has never been shy about his respect and competitiveness when it comes to Brazilian beach volleyball. He loves the rivalry, the level of play. Brazil has always proven to be a worthy antagonist to the U.S. And on Sunday, it certainly was, as Alison racked up nine blocks in a semifinal win over Dalhausser and Lucena, looking every bit the Mammoth who was at the top of the world for so long.

Alison and Alvaro would not win the final. No, that would go to, surprise surprise, Mol and Sorum, winners of three straight tournaments.

But the beach volleyball world feels right, back in its proper balance, with Brazil contending, with Alison blocking again, with Bruno being a wizard again, with Evandro and Andre sticking to one partner again.

It might not be the best news for the U.S., but it’s good news for the sport.

Brazil is, simply put, good for beach volleyball.