Baku, June 21, AZERTAC
The weather took its toll at Baku's Beach Arena on Saturday evening with the men's quarter-finals getting underway just hours after the round of 16.
"It was more of a war than a high-level Beach Volleyball game. It was fighting to get the balls and maybe not even finishing them and then fighting again until the opponent makes a mistake," said Alexei Strasser of Switzerland.
He and partner Gabriel Kissling beat the previously undefeated Austrians, Tobias Winter and Lorenz Peter Petutschnig, 2-1 (18-21, 23-21, 15-12).
The loss was particularly tough for Petutschnig, who was forced into calling a medical timeout at 21-21 in the second set, suffering from heat-related problems. Having given the 22-year-old five minutes of treatment, the Austrian team physio confirmed Petutschnig's heart rate was racing and his vision was blurry.
Elite level sport can be a ruthless environment, and Kissling and Strasser had no hesitation in seizing their opportunity.
"We knew then we had to keep serving on him and he will make some mistakes," said Kissling.
The pair were, however, also mindful of their own physical condition.
"We wanted to finish it quick, like cutting the throat if someone is bleeding, but actually we had wounds as well," said Strasser.
Helped by two Strasser serves timed at a rapid 91 km/h, the Swiss just managed to keep their noses in front throughout the third set, taking it 15-12. Not bad for a fresh partnership, after Strasser's usual partner Beeler was injured in a pre-Games warm-up tournament.
The Beach Arena is clearly an inspiring place for new partnerships. Latvians Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza, who themselves are playing just their second tournament together, have also reached the semi-finals.
Russia's Dmitry Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev and the Czech Republic's Premysl Kubala and Jan Hadrava are the other semi-finalists.