2017-05-16 17:07:00 CEST
Is this the year for Sara Radanovic and Croatia?
Just like in any sport, tournament experience is vital and beach volleyball is no different.
Twelve months ago, Sara Radanovic took to the sand at the Poreč Major for the first time. It was the Croatian youngster’s first steps on the sand in her professional career. On the other side of the court were two giants of the women’s game: Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca – reigning Swatch World Tour Finals champions. Talk about a baptism of fire.
This year Sara, now older and wiser at the tender age of 21 will be aiming to use the experience of pushing two Brazilian superstars all the way to good use when she returns to Poreč this summer.
In last summer’s Croatian sensation on the banks of the Adriatic coast, Sara and teammate Samanta Fabris recovered from a jittery start to give Larissa and Talita some real problems in the second set, taking 17 points off the Brazilian top seeds.
There was no disgrace in losing to a team of such high caliber in their first match together, and Sara and Samanta took that experience into their next pool play game, where they took Canadians Jamie Broder and Kristina May to three sets with a battling display that saw them win 24-22 in the second set.
Okay, so a place in the knockout stages was tantalizingly beyond the Croatians following a defeat to experienced German pair Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler, but there was enough about Sara’s performance to suggest that the know-how gained from her first taste of pro beach volleyball will stand her in good stead in 2017.
The potential is certainly there – it’s been four years since Sara recorded a ninth place finish at the Under-21 World Championships on home sand in Croatia – a tournament that Fort Lauderdale Major silver medalist Duda also finished in ninth.
So, will this be the year that Croatian fans are cheering on one of their own teams to glory in Poreč? Now that would be a story!
Thank you from the heart!
Read the third installment of Ben Saxton's Swatch Major Series blog
Gold medalists have to get ready for Gstaad
Stunning comeback gives Brazilian qualifiers gold