Americans bounce back with beach volleyball win
BEIJING (AP) Patrick Heuscher allowed himself to fantasize when he saw that overwhelming favorites Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser - his next opponents - had lost their opener in the Olympic beach volleyball tournament.
"There was a little hope they were struggling," the Swiss Heuscher said after the Americans, to his dismay, bounced back with a dominating performance to beat him and Sascha Heyer 21-15, 21-10 on Monday night. "There were two reactions possibly: That they could play like that, or that they play (poorly) like before."
Reigning world champions who lost to a Latvian team seeded 23rd in the 24-team field, Dalhausser and Rogers left little doubt that the problems were temporary. The first-time Olympians showed none of the jitters they suffered in their opener, which came the morning after the lengthy opening ceremony and followed a long layoff since their last match.
"I think the Latvian match was a bit of a wake-up call," Rogers said. "I think we were really rusty."
Dalhausser and Rogers took the preceding weekend off from the domestic pro tour, then flew to China to get acclimated. Rogers left Friday night's opening ceremony after marching in the parade of nations, but Dalhausser stuck around and didn't get to bed until 2:15 a.m.
They played at 9 p.m. Saturday and lost to Latvians Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs.
"It definitely didn't help sitting there in that humidity in that sportcoat," Dalhausser said. "I felt a little springier tonight. The legs felt a lot better. It felt good to have them back."
Dalhausser denied it was nerves.
"I wasn't nervous at all," the soft-spoken and shy Dalhausser told reporters in the post-match news conference. "I really don't get nervous playing volleyball. I get more nervous for this thing."
Despite the loss to Latvia that snapped a 21-game international winning streak, Monday's victory left the Americans 1-1 in the round-robin and on track to reach the medal round. A victory against Argentinians Martin Conde and Mariano Baracetti in the preliminary finale on Wednesday would guarantee that Rogers and Dalhausser reach the Round of 16.
A loss and they could still make it as a wild-card or through the "lucky losers" bracket.
"They're still the best team in the world," Heuscher said. "They're still the team to win the gold medal."
Americans Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs also won on Monday, coming back from a 17-15 deficit in the first set with six consecutive points to beat Germans Okka Rau and Stephanie Pohl 21-17, 21-16 and improve to 2-0 in the round-robin.
Branagh, who was a roommate and teammate of Elisabeth Bachman, the former Olympian whose parents were stabbed in Beijing, said she didn't sleep at all on Sunday night.
"I did the best I could to focus on this match. I'm just praying and thinking of them all the time," she said. "We have a huge goal here, and I'm trying to also focus on that. Luckily, I didn't play yesterday so I had that entire day."
Teams with two victories in the round-robin are virtually assured of a spot in the Round of 16, barring an unexpected forfeit. A team can also advance with a 1-2 record; only six of the 24 teams in the men's and women's fields are eliminated in the preliminaries.
Brazilian's Larissa and Ana Paula, who are playing together for the first time because of an injury to Larissa's partner on the eve of the games, improved to 2-0, but not without some growing pains. After losing their first set 21-19 to Russians Alexandra Shiryaeva and Natalia Uryadova, the Brazilians came back to win the next two, 21-12 and 15-13.
Susanne Glesnes and Kathrine Maaseide of Norway also improved to 2-0 with a victory on Monday, as did Tian Jia and Wang Jie of China, and Australians Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook.
On the men's side, Emanuel and Ricardo of Brazil improved to 2-0, along with Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack of Australia, Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil of the Netherlands.