GSTAAD, Switzerland - Ben Saxton of Calgary and Chaim Schalk of Red Deer, Alta., picked up where they left off at last week’s world championships advancing to the main draw on Wednesday at an FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event in beach volleyball.
The Canadians, a career-best fifth at the worlds which ended this past weekend in Poland, came back from losing the opening set to beat Sweden’s Hannes Brinkborg and Stefan Gunnarsson 2-1 (15-21, 21-18, 15-12) in the qualification round.
“Sweden was on fire and playing really, really well,” Schalk said. “To be honest we had quite a slow start in the first set. We weren’t really prepared to go and it took us a while to find our legs on the court.
“Midway through the second set we turned it up a lot and from then on we controlled the play. It took a lot of guts to pull it out and it’s big for us to reach the main draw.”
The pair have only been together since the start of the year and before the World Championships their best results were 17th place finishes at The Hague and Rome Grand Slams after placing fifth at the World Cup as well.
At the worlds, they enjoyed a remarkable run to the quarterfinals which included victories over an undefeated Polish pair and the sixth-seed Latvians. They are hoping to use that momentum for the rest of the year.
“We want to build on everything every week and we’ve been getting steadily better every week,” Saxton said. “Last week was obviously a good result and we’re hoping to do even better this week and in weeks to come.
“Qualification is always tough; it is single elimination, so for everyone it is do or die, so everyone is going to fight as hard they can.”
Maverick Hatch of Comox, B.C., and Christian Redmann of Toronto won their opening qualifying match then lost their second and did not advance.
In women’s competition, Jamie Broder of Victoria and Kristina Valjas of Toronto lost their opening two robin matches in the main draw and are in a must win situation to advance to the knockout round on Thursday.
The Gstaad Grand Slam is the fifth Grand Slam of 10 on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The tournament began with women’s qualifying on Tuesday July 9 and ends with women’s and men’s medal matches on Sunday July 13.
Full results: www.fivb.org