The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Beach Volleyball World Tour is set to return to Itapema for the second straight season with the Brazilian coastal city ready to host the sport’s men’s and women’s elite at Meia Praia Beach.
Some 88 teams – 47 men’s and 41 women’s – from 26 different countries will compete for coveted Tokyo 2020 Olympic ranking points from tomorrow through to Sunday (May 19).
Home nation Brazil claimed the gold medals in both genders last season as the duos of Evandro Gonçalves Oliveira Júnior and André Loyola Stein and Ágatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda "Duda" Santos Lisboa won the men’s and women’s events, respectively.
Gonçalves Oliveira Júnior and Loyola Stein, who are the reigning world champions but ended their partnership shortly after the 2018 Itapema Open, will return to defend their titles with different partners.
The former now pairs with Rio 2016 Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt, while the latter recently joined forces with George Wanderley.
The hosts will have as many as eight men’s teams playing in Itapema, including Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho, Pedro Salgado and Vitor Felipe, and Guto Carvalhaes and Saymon Barbosa.
The international contingent is highlighted by Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sørum, Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl, the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins.
Bednarczuk and Duda, the winners of the 2018 FIVB World Tour Finals , will lead the Brazilian female partnerships alongside Xiamen Open winners Ana Patrícia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti, Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixas, and Maria Elisa Antonelli and Carolina Salgado.
Brazil will also have eight women’s teams in contention.
"I couldn’t play last year because I had injured my finger and I was so upset," Patrícia Silva said.
"It was frustrating because it’s always special to play a World Tour event in Brazil, but we’ll be there this season and I hope we can keep showing the same good energy that led us to recent good results."
The list of international contenders who will challenge the Brazilians includes Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, the Netherlands' Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink, Switzerland’s Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich, who took the silver medal last year, and the United States' Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat.
The tournament also serves as a preview of the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, which are due to take place in Hamburg from June 28 to July 7.
Nearly half of the 90 first teams confirmed to compete in the German city will be seen in Itapema this week.
Qualification is scheduled to be held tomorrow.
The last eight main-draw berths will be up for grabs.