It was third time lucky in Fort Lauderdale for unstoppable Americans Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser as the home heroes lifted the first Beach Volleyball Major Series title of the season in their own backyard.
After winning silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017, last season’s World Tour Finals champs finally took gold on home sand in front of delighted friends and family watching in the packed Red Bull Beach Arena.
The duo – who both live in Florida – defeated 2016 Olympic silver medalists Paolo Nicolai 21-12, 21-17 to win the Fort Lauderdale Major and a share of 40,000 USD.
The Americans won silver in the World Tour Finals in 2015 and bronze at the Major last year. However, they were not to be denied this year after a scintillating run of six wins – all without dropping a set.
“It’s awesome, it’s a dream come true to win here with all my friends and family watching,” said Lucena, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale and began playing on the same beach.
“We’ve beaten a great team and when you have Phil, the best blocker in the world, it makes all the difference.”
For the Italians, they missed the chance to end a 22-year wait for a European gold medal on American sand.
Nicolai said: “We are happy with the second place. It was special to be in the final, but it was tough against Nick and Phil.
“They were really better and deserved it. We made all our preparation without wind and the conditions were so different here. But it’s a good result for us and a promising start for the year. It was an amazing tournament here in Fort Lauderdale and we are looking forward to the next ones.”
Europe were represented not once but twice on the podium as Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins took bronze. The duo failed to pick up a medal in the entire 2017 season but began this year by earning third place. They recorded an impressive 21-17, 21-17 victory over Brazil’s Pedro Solberg and George Wanderely.
“Last season we had some injuries and we weren’t in our best shape,” said three-time Olympian Samoilovs.
“We wanted to prove ourselves and to come back stronger this winter, so we had three tough months on camp and here is the result. We didn’t make many mistakes and they gave us some points in the end of both sets and that was the difference.”
The Beach Volleyball Major Series swaps the Florida sun for the Swiss Alps at the next stop. Alpine air and the sound of the iconic cowbells await the beach elite at the Gstaad Major between July 10-15.