Qataris Cherif/Ahmed in quarterfinal action against Aussies Schubert/Hodges
Top seeds Abdolhamed Mirzaali/Arash Vakili, second seeds Cherif Younousse/Ahmed Tijan and in-form Chinese Li Zhuoxin/Xue Tao all struggled in hard-fought three-setters on Thursday, but third seeds Christopher McHugh/Paul Burnett sealed comfortable win to see them book their semifinal slots in the Bandar Abbas-hosted 2022 Asian Senior Men’s Beach Volleyball Championship in Iran.
In the Friday morning’s do-or-die semifinals, Iranians Mirzaali and Vakili will challenge Australian McHugh/Burnett, with Chinese Li/Xue going up against Qataris Cherif/Ahmed.
The excitement of the continent’s five-day topflight competition had reached its fever pitch since the Thursday morning when all qualified 16 teams made their utmost efforts to come up with their best performances in the action-packed round of 16.
However, only the teams with remarkable performances made their mark in the knockout round of last 16, putting it past their respective opponents to advance to the action-packed quarterfinals later in the afternoon.
Australians Zachery Schubert and Thomas Hodges, who picked up silver medal at the last week’s AVC Beach Tour Bandar Abbas Open here, secured their quarterfinal berth after 2-0 (21-12, 21-17) demolition of Thailand’s Pithak Tipjan/Poravid Taovato.
Qataris Cherif and Ahmed, who topped the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Ranking for about nine months from August 2021 until May 2022, recovered from the first-set loss to beat Australia’s fourth seeds Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis, winners at the 2022 Coolangatta Future Beach Pro Tour, 17-21, 21-13, 15-12.
Iranians Mirzaali and Vakili were also given a sturdy challenge from Dunwinit Kaewsai and Intuch Techakijvorakul to beat the Thai 15th seeds 21-13, 20-22, 15-13 in exhausting encounter.
Oman’s Mazin Alhashmi and Hood Alialaboubi smashed Chinese Ha Likejiang/Wu Jiaxin’s sweet dreams of capturing back-to-back title in Bandar Abbas to stun the last week’s AVC Beach Tour Bandar Abbas Open champions with a comeback 2-1 (19-21, 21-12, 15-10) win.
Also advancing were another Chinese pairing, Li Zhuoxin/Xue Tao, who struggled to get past Kazakhstan’s Dimitriy Yakovlev/Sergey Bogatu 21-19, 13-21, 15-10, while Kazakhs Pustynnikov/Petrossyants came from behind to beat Iranians Bahman Salemi/Alireza Aghajanighasab 14-21, 22-20, 15-13.
The other remaining two matches in round of the last 16 saw Indonesians Ashfiya/Candra brush off Iranians Sheka/Pourasgari 21-10, 21-17 and Australians McHugh/Burnett power past Qataris Abdullah Nassim/Mohamed Ihab Zaki 21-18, 21-13.
In the quarterfinals later in the afternoon, Iranians Mirzaali and Vakili survived a scare from Mazin Alhashmi/Hood Alialaboubi to beat the Oman’s 9th seeds 15-21, 21-18, 15-13 in an intense clash.
However, a daunting task awaits Mirzaali/Vakili in the semifinals as the top seeds will take on defending champions McHugh and Burnett. Veteran McHugh alone had already claimed gold medals at five Asian Championship in 2012, 2014, 2016 with previous partner Isaac Kapa, 2020 with Damien Schumann and 2021 with Paul Burnett. McHugh also landed the Commonwealth Games two times in a row including the 2022 edition in Birmingham with Paul Burnett.
On the other hand, McHugh and Burnett had an easy task in the quarterfinals as the top Australian pairing, current FIVB world ranking No.18, spent only 29 minutes in comfortably brushing off Kazakhstan’s 28th seeds Artem Petrossyants and Vladislav Pustynnikov 21-14, 21-10.
Li and Xue are also expected to face the similar fate in the Friday’s semifinals when the China’s 23rd seeds will be pitted against Cherif/Ahmed, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists who already landed the Asian title in 2018 and 2019 and the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia.
In the quarterfinals earlier, the Chinese duo overcame a strong challenge from Indonesia’s Mohammad Ashfiya/Ade Candra Rachmawan, silver medallists at the 2018 Asian Games on home soil, 21-15, 17-21, 15-8.
Cherif and Ahmed, fresh from winning the 2022 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in Maldives in October, also struggled hard to beat Australia’s fifth seeds Zachery Schubert/Thomas Hodges, champions at this year’s AVC Beach Tour Samila Open in Thailand, 19-21, 21-18, 15-13 in gruelling 51 minutes in their quarterfinal encounter.
The semifinals will be held in the Friday morning, followed by the third-place playoff clash and final showdown in the afternoon. The award presentation and closing ceremony will take place shortly after completion of the final clash.
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