It isn’t quite up to Gstaad level – all those steaming coffees being had in the lushest of mountains – but the social media posts rolling out from the 96 players remaining in the field of this weekend’s Maldives Challenge are sure to provoke similar pangs of envy from those who didn't compete. The clear, teal water. The sugar white sand. The little hammocks in the middle of the ocean.
Dozens of athletes break through at the Maldives Challenge, setting up intriguing main draw
Many teams and athletes qualified for their first Challenge main draws on Thursday, setting up a new look to this weekend's action
Pubblicato 04:36, 13 Oct 2022
It’s an event being played on a post card. And thus far, that post card has been host to one breakthrough after another, even with just two rounds of qualifiers being played. It begins with the host itself, which is hosting the first Beach Pro Tour event in the island's history. But it doesn't end there. Not nearly.
Japan’s Akiko Hasegawa and Yurika Sakaguchi made their second main draw of the season in nine times trying, fending off American rookies Hailey Harward and Xolani Hodel, neither of whom had played a professional international event (in a way, then, the fact that Harward and Hodel won their first international match was a breakthrough in and of itself). Sun Island likewise marks the second time this season Poland’s Aleksandra Wachowicz and Jagoda Gruszczynska have made it through a qualifier and into the main draw, winning a tight three-setter over another pair of American rookies in Savvy Simo and Jessica Gaffney.
For Canadian Alison McKay, not only will the Maldives go down as the first Beach Pro Tour event of her career – it will also go down as her first main draw, qualifying alongside Katharine Wuttunee, who is now in the first Challenge main draw of her young career, which began just six months ago, at a Futures in Coolangatta, Australia.
American Deahna Kraft, too, stamped the passport for the first time in her career, qualifying for the main draw with Allie Wheeler, upsetting second-seeded Xinxin Wang and Jinjin Zeng, 20-22, 21-17, 15-13 in the final round.
“Allie giving me a lot of firsts this year,” Kraft said afterwards.
Those firsts didn’t end with the women, either. American Miles Partain, playing alongside Andy Benesh, made his international debut a strong one, sweeping Thailand’s Poravid Taovato and Pithak Tipjan, 21-18, 21-13 in their only match. The Maldives won’t mark the first main draw for either Lorenz Petutschnig or Florian Schnetzer, but it does mark the first main draw of their season. After missing in Futures in Spain, Poland, and France, the Austrians qualified with a sweep over Krystof Oliva and Tadeas Trousil, 21-18, 21-15.
The much-anticipated debut of Vinicius Rezende, the new partner of veteran Olympian Evandro Goncalves, went successfully enough, with a sweep over Japan’s Shiro Furuta and Takumi Takahashi, 21-16, 21-19. The Maldives is the first main draw for Vinicius since the Qinzhou three-star in 2020.
For American Evan Cory, the Maldives will also signify the first main draw of his quickly-rising career, as he and Logan Webber, reunited after a year-long break, swept fellow Americans Cody Caldwell and Adam Roberts, 21-14, 21-19.
“Officially better at volleyball than we are billiards,” Webber joked afterwards. The Maldives is the first time Webber has made the main draw in a Challenge event, though he has had success in a Futures, winning a silver medal in Greece earlier this year. Likewise, it’s the first Challenge main draw for Austrians Mathias Seiser and Mortitz Kindl, who swept Marek Jany and Lubos Nabec, 21-13, 21-16, as it is for England’s Issa Bartrane and Freddie Bialokoz, who took a commanding win over Japan’s Shinichi Ide and Toshiharu Kojima, 21-10, 21-10.
All of these firsts will no doubt make for an intriguing main draw, with new teams, new faces, new matchups, and the potential for upsets – and, yes, postcards and Instagram posts.