Posted on March 09, 2018

Qatar's leading duo of Cherif Younousse and Tajin Ahmed continued their pursuit of a home FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour medal when they reached the semi-finals of the 4-Star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup. Cherif and Tajin won three matches in one day, and it culminated in them fighting back to beat Poland's Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-10) to reach the semi-finals.

The 4-Star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup runs from March 6-10, and is taking place at the Katara Cultural Village. It is the fourth time that Doha has hosted an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour tournament, following competitions in 2014, 2015 and 2016. “I'm so tired, but I gave my best until we go there," Tijan said. “It will be the same tomorrow and we will give our best to be in the final because it is a beautiful venue and I want to carry on playing here. “In the first set the guys were serving so well and that made receiving hard. But we started to play better in the second set and used our service to pressure them. It gave us opportunities and they started to make bad passes and bad receptions and that gave us the chance to get up and block them."

Their win sets up a clash against Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen. The Dutch duo were pushed all the way by Brazil's Saymon Santos and Alvaro Filho, but eventually they held their serve to win 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 22-20). Brouwer and Meeuwsen are chasing their second World Tour medal of 2018 having won bronze at The Hague 4-Star tournament at the start of the year. “We had to play with our guts and put our heart on the court," Brouwer said. “To be in the semis is a big reward, but it is just the start. “We just had to keep pushing and we played with guts and took a few risks and I'm really happy with the win. It was important we regained focus on the things we want to improve, and each training session in pre-season was fully focused. “We want to win tournaments this year, so hopefully we can start here."

Number one seeds Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena survived a marathon first set to eventually beat Polish pair Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 2-1 (37-35, 13-21, 15-6) after Kantor and Losiak were forced to pull out through injury. They will now meet Russia's Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Igor Velichko, who beat Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins 2-0 (21-15, 21-13). Meanwhile, Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira are set to celebrate their 10th anniversary as a team and hope to use it as a springboard to further success on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

At the back of the Spaniards' minds is the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Qualifying through the World Tour begins in 2019 and runs till midway through 2020. Should they qualify it will be the 35-year-old Herrera's fifth Olympic Games, and his third in tandem with Gavira. In doing so he would be the first male to play in five Olympic Games. He won silver alongside Javier Bosma at Athens 2004, and while he will be nearer his 40s than his 20s by the time the action starts at Tokyo 2020, he admits to taking inspiration from other players on the Tour who are over 40.

“We feel good in and out of the court and this year is our 10th year together and it still feels like the first one," Herrera said. “We're happy together. We have a good relationship on and off the court. We are friends, almost brothers and I think that is the key. “Look at John Hyden, he is 45 I think and he is still like a young player, it is crazy. My knee is fine and it doesn't give me any problems any more. “It will be difficult to qualify, we will need to be in top condition next year and then we'll see." Herrera and Gavira are currently competing in the 4-Star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup in Doha and showed that they are nearing their best with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) win over Italy's Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, who last week won silver at the 5-Star Fort Lauderdale Major.

Their most recent podium finish came at the 2017 3-Star Hague tournament where they won silver. They are among the most consistent teams on the Tour and last week reached the Fort Lauderdale quarter-finals. “We have to improve our block-defence," Gavira said. “We aren't so tall, so it sometimes makes blocking hard. Then if we don't side-out well we get nothing, so we really need to work on our side-out," he added.