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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beach Volleyball's Back At Russia Men's Open




For many Russians, the word "volleyball" conjures up memories of old pensioners serving the ball to each other on a hot summer day at the dacha.


But that may be about to change, thanks to the Russia Men's Open.


The Men's Open, going on through Sunday at Troparyovo Park in southwest Moscow, is part of the Federation of International Volleyball's World Tour, and is aiming to bring the professional level of the sport to Russia.


This is the second straight year Moscow is hosting the tournament, which features teams from Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Australia and Russia. The Open is also a qualifier for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.


Popular in the United States, beach volleyball made its way to Russia only in 1986. At that time, the first mini-championships were held around the Soviet Union. Slightly different from traditional volleyball, beach volleyball teams include only two members and are played in one set, with the winning team being the first to score 15 points.


"It is an absolutely different kind of sport - it requires different techniques and different thinking," said Mikhail Serdukov, a professional volleyball coach participating in the tournament.


Another coach, Oleg Kovalenko, said that despite the lack of good professional-level Russian players, most of whom are used to traditional volleyball, there exists a need for specially selected teams and special coaches.


"We need to take it seriously as a sport," he said.


And events seemed to prove his words: The only remaining Russian team in the tournament lost 15-7 to an Australian team on Thursday, leaving the Russians no chance to get into the main draw. The Russian side consisted of Valentin Skvortsov and Alexei Dudnik from Rostov-on-Don's CSKA volleyball team.


"We are playing for the first time and we don't have enough experience," said Dudnik, who added that the most difficult thing is to move in the sand.


The Australian team of Victor Anfilloff and Andrey Schacht proved to be the most successful in Thursday's games, winning 15-11 over the Mexican team.


"We have a lot of beaches, so we must play well," Schacht, 26, said after the game.


His teammate, Anfilloff, who is of Russian descent, said "Russians are very good players," and added that the level of their game has grown stronger since the first Russia Men's Open last summer.


Anfilloff said that his dream is to get to the main draw. "That means you should be superman," he said.


The tournament wraps up with Sunday's finals, from which the winning team will walk away with $32,000 out of a total of $170,000 in prize money.


The Russia Men's Open, part of the FIV World Tour, runs through Sunday at Troparyovo Park. Games begin at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday; Sunday's final is at 10 a.m. Nearest metro: Tyoply Stan. A shuttle bus ride from the metro station costs 3 rubles. Admission is free.