19 Jul 2015

Russia defeat Brazil for historic final showdown

News Article

By Clive White

Daria Churakova and Nikita Burmakin (RUS)

The Italy-Brazil stranglehold on the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship was finally broken on Saturday when Russia, the host, defeated the South Americans. It means that for the first time in four years Brazil will not contest the final.

Its semifinal against Russia went right down to the wire when the mixed doubles team of Nikita Burmakin and Daria Churakova won a thrilling three-set match 63 67(3) 62 against the former title holders, Vinicius Font and Joana Cortez from Brazil, to set up a final on Sunday against the two-time champion Italy, who beat Spain 2-0.

The first semifinal was not without controversy. Emotions in this usually good natured sport momentarily boiled over in the second set when Font was accused of targeting Daria with his smashes.

“Vini hit Daria three or four times with very strong smashes in the body,” said Burmakin. “For me and most of the players it’s impossible. When we play mixed doubles we do everything except smashing very hard balls in the girl.

“Of course, he can hit the ball in another direction – the court is very big and the smash is very simple. He can choose to hit the ball wherever he wants, but he makes it in the girl and it’s very bad. I told him once, twice and then I made an official protest.

“I know that I can win simpler with the same smash but I choose not to do this and during all the game there were no hard strokes at the girl [from me]. If it goes in the head or the eye it’s very dangerous. For the man it’s okay but for women no.”

The Brazilian women’s doubles team of Samantha Barijan and Cortez had to come from behind to beat Julia Chubarova and Irina Glimakova 36 63 63 and the day just got harder and harder for them.

When the Brazilian men’s doubles pair of Marcus Ferreira and Thales Santos lost the second rubber, quite convincingly, 64 64 to Sergey Kupstov and Burmakin they knew they were in a battle.

The Russian men’s game had been compared to Russian roulette the previous day by Font, but on this occasion there were very few empty chambers in their big serves. Burmakin and Kuptsov are both from a tennis background and they had their eye in from the very start with heavy serving that repeatedly found the mark.

Cortez and Font rallied in the second set of the mixed doubles to claim it 7-3 in a tie break, forcing a third set which would ultimately decide the tie. The Brazilian pair never looked truly comfortable and to the delight of the home crowd conceded the match 63 67(3) 62.

In the other half of the draw, Spain made a good fist of it against Italy, particularly in the men’s doubles which Antomi Ramos-Viera and Gerard Rodriguez lost 46 75 61 to the world No 1s Alessandro Calbucci and Marco Garavini. The initial straight sets loss to Italy in the women’s doubles meant their campaign was over for another year.

As a result, Italy may well be the fresher of the two finalists. “We will make a very fast and strong game [for the final] because I don’t have too much energy now, so I’ll try to do my best very fast,” said Burmakin, who had appeared in two rubbers. “A massage and probably the doctor will help me tonight. Right now I don’t feel my legs.”

Despite being the underdog on paper, the Russians will have home support on their side as the Championship moves to the 2,500 seater Dynamo Beach Sports Centre for the final which will no doubt compensate for any sore limbs from the semis.

If that's not motivation enough, being involved in the first final to be broadcast live on not one, but two, national TV channels should provide the locals with an added incentive.