Pic by Owen Hammond/APAC Sport Media
Injuries and illness have thrown the final day of the Australian Tour beach volleyball finals at Sydney’s Manly Beach wide open.
Rio Olympian, Nikki Laird, and leading men’s player, Zachary Schubert, both had to withdraw on Saturday.
Laird and partner Phoebe Bell were one of the favourites for the women’s title, while Schubert and Cole Durant were considered strong prospects in the men’s draw.
The top teams are through to Sunday’s semi-finals, with Louise Grice and Mariafe Artacho del Solar set to take on Becchara Palmer and Jessyka Ngauamo in one intriguing match-up.
Grice and Palmer were partners at the 2012 London Olympics, while Artacho del Solar and Ngauamo were partners just one week ago, winning silver at the FIVB World Tour event in Sydney.
Palmer said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I think we’re really solid out there, which is a really nice feeling, but I also think it has an impact on the opposition, which is the most important thing,” Palmer said.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s match, those guys are definitely the team to hunt this week, and I’m glad we get a chance to get a crack at them.”
The other women’s semi-final will be an all-Manly affair, with Alice and Johannah Rohkamper taking on locally-based Europeans, Michaela Vorlova and Lucia Michalovicova.
It will be a replay of their pool match, which the Rohkampers’ won in three sets.
The men’s semi-finals will also see former partners taking on each other, with Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann taking on Isaac Kapa and Tim Dickson.
McHugh and Kapa were partners during the Rio qualification campaign.
Kapa has returned to competition this weekend after hip surgery sidelined him for several months.
The second men’s semi-final will be an all-international affair, with USA’s David McKienzie and Ian Statterfield taking on Japan’s Yoshumi Hasegawa and Masato Kurasaka.