Photo: Srdjan StevanovicAndre Baran and Rafaella Miiller (BRA)
Brazil secured their status as the most decorated beach tennis nation at the ANOC World Beach Games on the final day of competition in Doha with gold and bronze medals in the mixed doubles event.
Andre Baran and Rafaella Miiller upgraded the silver medals won in Tuesday’s men’s and women’s doubles finals respectively to gold on Wednesday, trouncing French duo Marie-Eve Hoarau and Nicolas Gianotti 6-1 6-1 in the mixed doubles gold medal match.
Their partners from Tuesday’s finals also returned to the podium, Joana Cortez and Vinicius Font beating Italy’s Tomasso Giovannini and Flaminia Daina 4-6 7-6 [10-8] to take the bronze.
Gold for the younger of the Brazilian pairs was a particularly sweet moment for Miiller, who came within a point of the women’s doubles title just a day earlier, only to lose out alongside Cortez to Italy’s Daina and Nicole Nobile.
“Yesterday we had a tough match and we were so close, so today for me was really important,” said the reigning world champion. “I think it was one more reason to play better and win this medal. I entered the court and gave 100%, and I am super-happy.”
Font, viewed as something of a father-figure in the Brazilian team at the age of 34, struggled to hold back his emotions after sharing the podium with Cortez, Miiller and Baran.
“I’m happy for me, and happy for them as well,” he said with tears in his eyes after the medal ceremony. “Before being partners, we are friends, and their achievement is my achievement as well.”
Baran and Miiller, the No.3 seeds, downed No.2 seeds Giovannini and Daina 6-4 7-6 to book their place in the final, while the unseeded Gianotti and Hoarau had been run even closer by No.4 seeds Font and Cortez in their semi-final clash, edging through 7-6 2-6 [10-7].
With gold on the line, however, there was only ever one winner. Baran and Miiller were relentless from the outset, making full use of their height and wingspan advantage to smother the net and race to victory on Katara Beach.
“It’s very difficult to lose like this in a final,” admitted Gianotti. “All players want a gold medal. But now we can think about the whole tournament – we saved a lot of match points in the quarter-finals, and in the semi-finals it was very, very close. So we are very happy to be here.”
With that, the Brazilians’ medal count at the ANOC World Beach Games rose to four after five days of competition – ahead of Russia (two), Italy, Spain and France (one each).
“Vini said we are not playing just for us but for Brazil, for the many people who play this sport, so it’s very important, this victory,” Cortez said of Baran and Miiller’s gold medal – sentiment echoed by Baran.
“It’s a dream, representing my country, representing Brazil,” he said. “It’s so important for Brazil, for the new generation.”
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