Utrecht, Netherlands. Many of the best in the world will be in Utrecht this week for King of the Court 2020. Only one team will be crowned Kings of the Court and, maybe in their minds, Kings of 2020.
It’s being played, as everything in the 2020 year has been, in unique fashion: King of the Court style, featuring multiple teams on court, the first two rounds played against the clock and only the King’s side winning points. (Click here for more details.)
Here is a preview of the men’s groups this week in Utrecht. And remember you can watch all the action live on YouTube.
Anders Mol, Christian Sorum (NOR)
Patrik Mañas, David Schweiner (CZE)
Piotr Kantor, Bartosz Losiak (POL)
Yves Haussener, Quentin Metral (SUI)
Dirk Boehlé, Mark van Werkhoven (NED)
Every sport and event that uses pool play has a difficult pool. Why should King of the Court be any different?
Group C is definitely a tough one.
Mostly because it has the No. 1 ranked team in the world, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, in it. Really, any pool with the Norwegians, winners of 11 events in the past two seasons, would be difficult, but it doesn’t help that it also includes the blur offense of Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak. It was also barely a year ago that Dirk Boehle entered the winners circle, claiming gold in Montpellier with Stefan Boermans. He’s grabbed 2.08m Mark van Wekhoven for this one, but still: nobody wins an FIVB by accident.
Must watch TV
Julius Thole, Clemens Wickler (GER)
Cherif Samba, Ahmed Tijan (QAT)
Matthew Immers, Leon Luini (NED)
Hendrik Mol, Mathias Berntsen (NOR)
Marco Krattiger, Florian Breer (SUI)
In terms of the most fun beach volleyball to watch, Group D is can’t-miss theater. It includes German wunderkinds Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler, silver medallists at both the World Champs and World Tour Finals in 2019 and one of the toughest defensive teams in the world. Then you have Edmonton gold medallist Marco Krattiger and his new partner, young Florian Breer. Always adding to the intrigue is Norway, with the physical and tireless Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen, who have alas stopped road tripping around their enviably telegenic country for a week to compete in the King of the Court. It’s must watch TV, this pool, and if you do miss it, worry not – Mol will likely have some kind of epic content coming out of it on the wildly popular Beachvolley Vikings YouTube and Instagram accounts.
Small but mighty
Pablo Herrera, Adrian Gavira (ESP)
Quincy Aye, Arnaud Gauthier-Rat (FRA)
Aleksandrs Samoilovs, Janis Smedins (LAT)
Dries Koekelkoren, Tom van Walle (BEL)
Ruben Penninga, Jasper Bouter (NED)
It’s not often you see many teams in the beach volleyball world succeeding without a giant at the net these days – look at Norway (Mol), Russia (Oleg Stoyanovskiy), Germany (Thole), and the USA (Phil Dalhausser) for all the evidence you need – yet this pool is full of them. Two of the best split-blocking teams in beach history are included here with Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins. The tallest amongst that group is the 1.95m Samoilovs.
Tom van Walle and Ruben Penninga are the tallest of the bunch, standing at near 2 metres, but that’s as big as it gets here, making it by far the smallest pool – and perhaps the most unique to watch as well.
Pool of Parity
Alex Brouwer, Robert Meeuwsen (NED)
Martins Plavins, Edgars Tocs (LAT)
Marco Grimalt, Esteban Grimalt (CHI)
Ben Saxton, Grant O’Gorman (CAN)
Stefan Boermans, Yorick de Groot (NED)
Most pools have somewhat of a heavy favourite to win their respective pools, or to make it out with virtually no issue. It would be a bit of a shock if Anders Mol and Christian Sorum didn’t claim the Group C, if Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler weren’t the kings of Group D, or if Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins weren’t at or near the top of the Small but Mighty Group A.
But Group B? It’s marked by parity. All five teams in the pool made at least one semifinal in 2019. The Grimalt cousins won back to back events, in Sydney and Doha; Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen took silver at the Gstaad Major; Martins Tocs and Edgars Plavins took bronze in Warsaw, beating out the Grimalts for the medal; Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman left hometown Edmonton with a silver in hand.
The big question mark – which should prove to be the most fun to watch, too – is young Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot, a decorated Dutch team despite being a combined 46 years old. Boermans won gold in Montpellier a year ago, while de Groot took bronze in Ljubljana.
Sure, Brouwer and Meeuwsen are the most established, winning a World Championship title in 2013, but to peg anyone in this group as a clear favourite would be a disservice to the pool – the Parity Pool.
FIVB – Volleyball World