The Swiss beach volleyball brothers Martin and Paul Laciga have suffered a shock quarter-finals defeat at the hands of Portugal's Miguel Maia and Joao Brenha.This content was published on September 24, 2000 - 10:19
The 15-11 loss marked the end of the road for two of Switzerland's biggest medal hopes. The Lacigas were fourth in the world rankings coming into the Olympic tournament, and had comprehensively beaten the top-seeded Australians to make it into the last eight.
After falling behind early on, the Lacigas levelled the match at 5-5, and then moved into what looked like a commanding lead. At 10-5 and 11-6 ahead, the brothers seemed to have found the same rhythm which so spectacularly undid the Australians.
But as quickly as they had found it, the Lacigas lost it. Having given away the serve, the two brothers hit the net in successive strikes to let the Portuguese back in at 11-8.
The blocking skills of Brenha then whittled away the Laciga's narrow lead. First the Portuguese player showed off his reactions to bounce a fierce shot back onto the Swiss brothers' side of the court. Then Brenha demonstrated positional awareness, his outstretched arms forcing Paul Laciga to hit the ball wide.
On the next point it was Martin Laciga's turn to block, but as he jumped towards the net, Maia slipped the ball skilfully through the Swiss player's hands. With the score now level at 11-11, the Lacigas called their last time-out, but soon time was all they were playing for.
An 11-shot rally after the break ended with the Portuguese finding a wide gap on the Swiss side. A wide shot from Paul Laciga on the next point was followed by another good block from Brenha.
Just 10 minutes after opening up a five-point lead, the Lacigas were facing match point. Seconds later it was over. A desperately long smash from Paul Laciga sent the Portuguese into ecstasy and the semi-finals.
The Lacigas in contrast fell to the sand in despair. Having missed out on the Atlanta Olympics by a single world ranking position, the Swiss pair were shown in dramatic fashion that life among the favourites can be just as tough.
by Mark Ledsom
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