BURGAS, BULGARIA: Having caused the biggest upset of the tournament when they defeated the world number ones and top seeds Luca Carli (Italy) and Michele Cappelletti (Italy), all eyes were on Alex Mingozzi (Italy) and Marco Faccini (Italy) as they faced former World Champion Marco Ludovici (2009) (Italy) and his partner Fabrizio Avantaggiato (Italy).
On centre court, the crowds gathered as the match developed into another classic beach tennis battle. The Ludovici serve was working according to plan but so were the lightening reactions of his opponents.
Inevitably, the deadlock could only be settled with a tie break for the first set. Immediately getting a double mini break, Ludovici and Avantaggiato found themselves in control at 3-0. The luck seemed to be against the underdogs as an unreturnable Faccini smash found the wrong side of the line.
At 5-2, Mingozzi needed both his service points to stay in the set but it was not to be. The risks did not pay off as they saw the set slip away 67(2).
Fired up in the second set, Mingozzi and Faccini shot to a 4-1 lead. With two breaks of serve under their belt, they just needed to serve out the set to draw level. A break against the Mingozzi serve did not help calm the nerves as the gap closed to 4-3.
The next two games going with serve, Mingozzi found himself serving at 5-4 deuce. If there is ever a more pressured shot in the game, it must be the decisive deuce point. Both set point for Mingozzi and break point for his opponents the former world number one composed himself for the serve.
A massive serve down the middle put them in control of the point and finally a desperate Avantaggiato smash flew beyond the baseline as the score levelled at one set all.
As the match ran into its third hour, both teams were feeling the heat in all sense of the word. Holding on to his serve courtesy of a well played deuce point, Avantaggiato kept the set on track as they led 2-1.
What happened next nobody was expecting. Mingozzi found himself 0-40 down on his serve and in serious trouble. Both players knew that a cautious approach would prove fatal against the power and precision of their opponents. It was all or nothing.
The next three points left the receiving team lying in the sand as Mingozzi pulled the game back to deuce. As the crowd were on the edge of their seats, there was confusion on the court as Avantaggiato remained in the sand.
Unable to continue the game due to severe cramping, he had no option but to concede the next two games and receive treatment in the change of ends. But despite the rest and best efforts to relieve the cramp, he was unable to continue.
A very unfortunate end to a very special performance sent Mingozzi and Faccini through to the semi finals 67 (2), 64, 32 ret..
In the rest of the draw, the other quarterfinals went to plan for the top seeds. Alessandro Calbucci and Luca Meliconi saw off their Italian opponents Matteo Catalano and Marco Guercio 64 75.
A closely fought match saw the underdogs finding weaknesses in their opponents’ game at times with an early 3-1 lead in the first set, but the defending champions maintained control and did not allow their opponents to get a hold on the match.
Paolo Tazzari (Italy) and Marco Garavini (Italy)showed that they should not be forgotten in this event. Having lost just six games in the Championships so far, they continued to dominate in their quarterfinal match.
Their opponents, Simone Omiccioli (Italy) and Stefano Speranzini (Italy) could find no response to the onslaught of smashes coming their way. And just when the underdogs looked like they were in control of a point, the third seeds would turn the table and bury the ball into their side of the court.
A convincing and quick win for the seeded team sees them looking fresh and dangerous as they move into the semifinals. Final score, 61 62.
The fourth quarterfinal was guaranteed to entertain. Giulio Petrucci (Italy)and Luca Rosatone (Italy), seeded fifth, against former World Champion (2010) Alan Maldini (Italy) and his partner Luca Cramarossa (Italy) seeded fourth.
Maldini was on excellent form. Surviving an early scare at 15-40 down on his first service game he fought back to win the decisive deuce point and lost just two more points against his serve in the remainder of the match.
The fourth seeds proceeded to win the next three games to love, an almost unheard of achievement in a sport played at lightning speed with no second serve, to give them a 4-1 lead. This sealed the set for the pair as they proceeded to finish it off 62.
The second set was a more closely fought affair but the fifth seeds were unable to take control and finally succumbed at 4-5 down as the deuce point on the Petrucci serve went the way of Maldini and Cramarossa, 62 64.
With the semifinals featuring the defending World Champions (Calbucci and Meliconi) facing former World Champion in Alan Maldini and the top seed defeating Mingozzi and Faccini against an in form Tazzari and Garavini, it is hard to imagine anything other than two hard hitting and fast paced matches await.
The final to be played later in the afternoon will certainly be a treat for beach tennis fans and Burgas Beach goers alike.