Photo: Dennis G. IljushenkovBeach Tennis World Team Championship 2012
MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Fighting for a place on the podium, France and Russia went head to head for third place in what developed into a crowd-pleasing epic sure to be recalled as one of the most exhilarating ties of the World Team Championship 2012. With no lack of home support, the Russian team put their compatriots through a veritable rollercoaster of emotions.
The ladies were first on court as Gulnara Fattakhetdinova and Irina Bulykina of Russia took on Mathilde Hoarau and Marie Eve Hoarau of France. The crowd did not hold back in vocalising their delight as their team took the first set by seven games to five.
Saving match point at 4-5, the French forced the hosts into a tie break which they went on to win 7-5. At one set all the Russian ladies were determined to give their nation the upper hand and powered their way to victory with a 61 win in the final set.
The pressure was now on the men as Francois Jouque and Romain Bourse tried to keep their country in the tie while Levan Nanava and Igor Panin desperately tried to confirm Russia’s place on the podium.
By 4-4 in the first set the crowd could barely watch as game after game required a deciding point deuce to settle it. It was the French though who broke the deadlock with the first break of serve coming at 5-4 to give them a one set lead.
Both teams continued their strong serving holding at the start of the second set but once again it was the French who upset the pattern, and the home fans, breaking for a 4-2 lead before taking the next two games to win the match 64 662 and drawing the tie level at 1-1.
It seemed fitting that this tie should be decided by the mixed match as Levan Nanava and Gulnara Fattakhetdinova of Russia provided the spectators with another nail-biting match as they faced François Jouque and Mathilde Hoarau of France.
Taking an early 4-1 lead the Russians looked in control until Francois Jouque found his target with several massive smashes to level the score at 4-4. Nanava responded with a hold to love before the Russians found themselves with two set points against the French serve.
Continuing to put the home fans through their paces, they saw the chance slip away and the set levelled at 5-5. A warning heeded by the French, they proceeded to win the next eight points to steal the set from the Russian grasp 75.
The second set continued to entertain as the deft touch of Gulnara Fattakhetdinova delighted the crowd and François Jouque’s powerful attacking play kept the French looking dangerous. But it was not to be for the host nation as a deciding point at 4-4 gave France the break which they took full advantage off to serve out the set and match and give France a place on the podium.