Photo: Stuart BarracloughThales Santos and Marcus Ferreira (BRA)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL: The in-form Brazilians Thales Santos and Marcus Ferreira beat their top-seeded compatriots Vinicius Font and Guilherme Prata to secure the title at the inaugural ITF Beach Tennis Pan American Championships.
Brazilian champions were inevitable in Porto Seguro once both Brazilian teams had seen off the threats from their Venezuelan opponents in the semifinals. The result of the final however was far from predictable.
Santos and Ferreira were second seeds coming into the Championships but had been on form throughout the week, dropping just seven games in the group stage and winning their semifinal by a comfortable 61 64.
Having only narrowly survived the determined challenge of Venezuelans Jose Peraza and Pedro Penalver 64 57 62 in their semifinal, top seeds Font and Prata were unable to survive their countrymen's onslaught in the final.
Huge serving by Santos and lightening reflexes from Ferreira left the favourites with little room to manoeuvre as their opponents took the opening set 62. Finding some composure in the second set, Font and Prata hit back and found themselves with set point at 5-4. But to the disappointment of an animated Brazilian crowd hoping for a close match, a third set never arrived.
Santos and Ferreira saved the game before breaking serve for Santos to serve out the match 62 75. The pair became the first ITF Beach Tennis Pan American Champions.
"I really can’t believe it. Vini [Vinicius Font] and Gui [Guilherme Prata] have been the top Brazilian team for so long and everybody assumed they would take the title here," said Ferreira after the match. "We have been playing really well all week and I knew we had a chance if we kept our nerve today. It feels amazing to be able to say we are Pan American Champions."
The final matches in the women's event saw the top two seeds, both home teams unbeaten throughout the week, facing each other for the title. Joint world No. 1s Joana Cortez and Samantha Barijan were the favourites but their opponents were not going to go down without a fight.
Lorena Melo and Flavia Muniz were determined to cause an upset and came out fighting to claim the first set 64. Some inspired shots from both Brazilian teams kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as Cortez and Barijan levelled the match at 46 63 before finally wrapping things up 46 63 63 to confirm their place on the top of the podium.
Speaking after the match, Cortez said, "It means a lot for us to win the first Pan American Championships. We have had a very good year winning the World Team Championship in July and it feels great to now have a Pan American Championship title. Lorena [Melo] was playing incredibly and the conditions were tough today with strong wind and a rain break.
"We are very happy and I think this will also ensure that we hold on to the No. 1 spot in the rankings. The event itself is really good for the sport and I am sure that it will be even harder next year as more countries are sure to enter."
The final match for another Brazilian pair, Paula Cortez and Luciana Fernandes, was against Venezuelans Patricia Diaz and Andrea Pereira. With both teams level in the group, third place on the podium was at stake. The Venezuelans were determined to prevent an all-Brazilian podium finish and finally claimed the match 64 76(3) to take the third spot.
Having both lost to Brazilians in the semifinals, third place on the men's podium was contested by two Venezuelan men's teams in a closely fought match as the compatriots all knew each other’s games well. Finally Ramon Guedez and Jorge Penalver came out on top 64 75.