Eight pairs earned their places in the women’s quarter-finals at the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Beach World Tour event in Moscow today and two of the players, Italy’s Marta Menegatti and the United States' Sarah Sponcil, did so on their birthdays.
Sponcil and partner Kelly Claes, the sixth seeds, cruised to an emphatic 21-16, 21-9 victory over Slovakia’s Andrea Strbova and Natalia Dubovcova to make the last eight of the four-star tournament at the Russian's capital's Luzhniki Olympic Complex.
"It was a good win, kind of hard, because we had the entire day to rest, while the team that we played had a match that they had already played," Sponcil, who turned 23 today, said.
"They were definitely warmed up, but I think we came out really strong.
"At the very beginning I didn’t feel very warmed up, so maybe that’s something that we can work on, but towards the middle of the first set we got some energy going and got some good side-outs.
"Nothing like to win on your birthday.
"That’s all I wanted today and I am really excited.
"My friends and I are going out to dinner and try to celebrate as much as we can, but making sure we’re ready for tomorrow as well."
Victory did not come as easy for 29-year-old Menegatti and partner Viktoria Orsi Toth, the 16th seeds, as they had to fend off multiple match points for their German opponents Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch in a nail-biting second set of their encounter before eventually triumphing 17-21, 33-31, 15-11.
"I don’t remember how many match points there were in the second set, but it was crazy," two-time Olympian Menegatti said.
"We enjoyed it a lot, but I think our coach did much less than us.
"This was a great match not only for us, but also for our opponents."
Next up for Sponcil and Claes are Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré, who beat The Netherlands' Joy Stubbe and Marleen Ramond-van Iersel 28-26, 21-17 and Czech Republic's Barbora Hermannová and Marketa Slukova 21-15, 21-10 on their way to the quarter-finals.
Standing between Menegatti and Orsi Toth and a place in the semi-finals are 17th-seeded Brazilians Taiana Lima and Talita Da Rocha Antunes, who are the lowest-ranked team still in contention.
They won three matches today, defeating Japan’s Sayaka Mizoe and Suzuka Hashimoto 21-17, 21-13 in their last Pool A match, the US's Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman 21-15, 21-19 in round one, and home favourites Ekaterina Birlova and Evgenia Ukolova 21-13, 21-19 in round two.
The other two quarter-finals pit Spain's Liliana Fernández Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan against Germany's Karla Borger and Julia Sude, and Brazil's Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva against the US's Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Silva Ramos and Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva overcame top-seeded compatriots Maria Antonelli and Carolina Solberg Salgado 10-21, 21-19, 15-11, while Steiner and McMillan claimed a 21-17, 19-21, 15-12 win over second-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa at the same stage.
The men's quarter-final line-up was also decided today.
Among those through are defending champions Jānis Šmēdiņš and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia after they followed up a 21-19, 21-16 victory over Spain's Pablo Herrera Allepuz and Adrián Gavira Collado by beating home favourites, top seeds and reigning world champions Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy 21-19, 23-25, 15-12.
They will go onto face another Russian duo, Nikita Liamin and Taras Myskiv, who defeated Switzerland's Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson 16-21, 21-19, 15-12 in the last 16.
Second-seeded Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Álvaro Morais Filho will meet fifth-seeded Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, while there is an all-Brazilian clash between third seeds Evandro Gonçalves Oliveira Júnior and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, and Gustavo Albrecht Carvalhaes and Saymon Barbosa Santos.
The other last-eight tie pits fourth-seeded Dutchmen Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen against sixth-seeded Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler.