CUT SHOTS: WRAP SHEET
By Tom Feuer
After a spectacularly successful Long Beach event this past weekend, the season winds down to a close with only the AVP Chicago Open (concluding Sunday), and the World Tour Finals in Toronto (September 13-18) left on the docket. It should be a VERY interesting offseason, as teams will probably be switching up partners like crazy now that they are not locked down in the two-year Olympic qualification cycle. Some takeaways:
- Two teams to watch closely in the next year are the duo of Guto and Saymon Barbosa as well as their Brasilian counterparts, Duda and Elize Maia. Barbosa is a huge presence at the net, a jumping jack with long arms who when blocking can take away vast areas of the court. He is only 22 and will be a proverbial lock for Tokyo 2020 if he can keep his emotions under check. His partner, Guto, is 23, and is a good defensive player with all of the shots you would expect from someone 6-1. Together they had a terrific year winning the Cincinnati Open, finishing as the runners-up in the Klagenfurt Major, and taking two additional third place finishes.
- My sense is that the Duda/Maia partnership will not last. Maia, 31, will have to fend off suitors right and left for Duda, who at 18, has already won five (!) FIVB age group World Championships, an absolutely stunning total. On the senior circuit, Duda and Maia won Opens in Fortaleza and Maceio, as well as taking fourth in the Olsztyn Major. However, Duda, with a more accomplished partner, could be a very tough out for any team in the world.
- Here’s hoping that there can be more Majors and Grand Slams in 2017 than there were in 2016. I realize that it is very hard to make a profit as a tournament promoter on the FIVB circuit. Hopefully a better economy, combined with the post-Olympic halo, will lead more sponsors to embrace the sport. This past year there were only four Grand Slams, three Majors and the World Tour Finals. That means there were only eight total events where the world’s top players were going up against each other. With Klagenfurt seemingly on life support, hopefully there will be other locales/promoters that can step up.
- Here’s hoping (part II) that the most dynamic, captivating team at the Olympics, the young Cubans, Nivaldo Diaz and Sergio Gonzalez, can get help from their federation and/or some other financial support so that we can see this athletic duo more than just at the Olympics, World Championships or NORCECA events.
- With April Ross turning her attention to starting a family, where will that leave Kerri Walsh Jennings in the interim? Will talented young USC senior Sara Hughes be the anointed one? Stay tuned.
- Who does Tri Bourne team up with in the next quadrennial? Will it be one of the Crabb’s? As great as they have been as ambassadors of the sport, the clock is winding down for the Dalhaussers, Bournes, Pattersons, Hydens and Gibbs of the world. It is really imperative that a creative solution be found for identifying and supporting the next generation of men’s athletes. We need a support mechanism so that players are not dipping into savings by travelling around the world on the FIVB and NORCECA circuits. If you lose in the FIVB qualifiers you bounce with no prize money. Very few players are able to make it into main draws right away as newbies on the circuit. In track and field, there are some “benefactors,” individuals, with a love of the sport who help sponsor athletes. If the economics don’t work for USAV, maybe we can identify some well-off folks from the private sector who can serve in this capacity. Lord knows that there are an awful lot of well-heeled beach volleyball fans on the West Side and South Bay of Southern California. The expenses of beach volleyball players would be a rounding error for quite a few people in these locales.
- There are some legendary Brasilians as well on their last legs. It would not surprise me to see Larissa, Talita, Juliana, Maria Antonelli and Ricardo call it quits after their Brasilian summer circuit is over, if not sooner.
- I know there are a number of you out there that want to tinker with the rules. We will see how things go in Chicago this week with the abolition of the let serve and the return of sideout scoring on match point. However, over the last 16 years I have become accustomed to how the sport is played and officiated and would like to leave well enough alone. If I had skin in the game, I would like to see one consistent ball utilized on all professional circuits.
Tom Feuer has been a close observer of the sport since 1976. He currently works as the Director of Arizona State’s Cronkite Sports Bureau in Santa Monica, CA and is a Professor of Practice. Prior to that, he was the Executive Producer for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles and has won three National Emmy Awards for his work in television.