BURGAS, BULGARIA: Emotions were high on finals day as defending World Champions Alessandro Calbucci (Italy) and Luca Meliconi (Italy) were out to become the first male team to defend their title, with Meliconi also chasing the accolade of first man to win the title three times.
Alan Maldini (Italy) was attempting to regain the title he had won with Meliconi in 2010, while Alex Mingozzi (Italy), former world number one, was desperate for glory after crashing out in the quarter finals in 2011 as the top seed. A fate he subjected the top seeds to in the second round just two days ago.
And then there’s Marco Garavini (Italy) and Paolo Tazzari (Italy), seeded third, and whose sublime beach tennis has lead them to comfortable victories without conceding a set throughout the event.
It was only fitting that the defending champions should begin proceedings on centre court taking on Maldini and Cramarossa (Italy). Maldini had been on phenomenal form all week with his deft touch leaving his opponents stuck in the sand.
As his former partner however, Meliconi knew the Maldini game well and the defending champions got off to a strong start. Winning the first two games on deciding point, luck seemed to be on their side.
With strong winds playing havoc with high balls, an aggressive approach was required. But with the incredible reactions of all four players, this did not mean short rallies. Far from it. Finding themselves 4-1 down, Maldini needed a strong service game to keep the set alive.
Strong it was, but not strong enough. Once again losing out on deciding point, the scoreline bared no reflection on the closeness of the two teams as Meliconi served a love game to close the set 61.
The fortune seemed to stay on the Calbucci/Meliconi side of the net as they continued to win the big points to take a 3-1 lead. Finally winning a deuce point, Maldini and Cramarossa drew level at 3-3 before Maldini’s serve went in favour of the opposition. Another deuce point lost.
This time there was no breaking back as Meliconi served out the match to send his former Championship winning partner home and book as place in the final 61 64.
The second semifinal saw Garavini and Tazzari take on Mingozzi and Faccini. Both teams had been on top form all competition and the match promised a highly entertaining few hours. But the third seeds from Rome were not in the mood for games or, perhaps more accurately put, for losing games or event points for that matter.
After taking the first game on deuce, they lost just three more points as they shot to a 5-0 lead. Mingozzi/Faccini managed to reduce the deficit to 5-2 but the task was too great as they lost the first set 62.
Putting the first set behind them, Faccini opened the second set with a love service game before they broke the Tazzari serve for a 2-0 lead. Game on! But this just seemed to push the Romans to up their game.
Soon 2-4 down, Mingozzi served a strong game to reduce the deficit before breaking the Garavini serve to draw level at 4-4. Another break for each team and Mingozzi found himself serving at 5-5, deuce.
Holding his nerve he sent a massive serve down the middle and took a 6-5 lead. Unsurprisingly the crowd were soon treated to a tiebreak.
At 4-3 to the men from Rome, the tiebreak was going with serve until two mini breaks on the Faccini serve extended the gap to 6-3 to give three match points. The Tazzari serve had been a reliable and formidable weapon all week and it did not let him down. Despite some impressive defensive play by Mingozzi/Faccini, they could only win one more point before exiting the competition 62 76 (4).
With music pumping out and giveaways been tossed to the crowd, spectators packed into the stands for the final. Calbucci/Meliconi against Tazzari/Garavini; experience against athleticism.
The first set went as expected, neck and neck between the two teams. Hold followed by hold and break followed by break back until 5-5. Holding serve, the defending champions took a 6-5 lead and faced the Tazzari serve for the first set.
Meliconi and Calbucci we no strangers to pressure and they upped their game to deny the Romans a tie break. 75 in the first. Perhaps angered at losing their first set of the tournament, Garavini and Tazzari were relentless after the set break.
The second set was a much shorter affair as the second seeds were unable to respond to the power and athleticism of their opponents who took the set 63.
Perhaps memories of the Cervia 2011 final, where Calbucci/Meliconi saw a one set lead slip away to finish runners up against Tazzari/Garavini, crept into the minds of the defending champions in the third set.
Finding themselves 4-2 down, their World Championship status was hanging on a thread as Calbucci stepped up to serve. Powerful and precise, Calbucci’s delivery gave them the upper hand in each point and the deficit was reduced to 3-4.
A break now was essential for the second seeds but the Garavini serve was no small weapon to disarm. The World Championships would not be complete without drama and break they did to give the upper hand back to the defending champions as Meliconi served at 4-4.
The Romans however were not prepared to relinquish control and at 15-30 they forced Meliconi to go for broke and gift them a service fault and three break points with it. An acute angled drop shot by Garavini landed just the wrong side of the line for the Romans as Meliconi gave a sigh of relief.
A cautious rally followed before Meliconi’s smash proved too powerful for Tazzari as his block lands just long. But it was to be third time lucky for the Romans as a poor lob over Garavini gets the punishment it deserved and is buried into the sand on the Meliconi/Calbucci side.
5-4 serving for the match, the crowd was on the edge of their seats as they prepared for a new World Champion to be crowned. Holding his nerve, Tazzari served his way to a 40-15 lead for three match points.
Attacking the ball, the Romans were desperate to finish off the match as quickly as possible but could not find a way past the defending champions. A Calbucci smash and one match point disappeared into the sand.
But the break of serve proved fatal and the next point saw the World Championship title change hands for another year as Paolo Tazzari and Marco Garavini fell to the sand in celebration as their opposition’s shot hit the net. Final score, 57 63 64.