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Latvian pair wows crowd, wins crown

MANILA, Philippines — Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova showed how tenacious their seven-year partnership have become by beating Spain’s Daniela Alvarez Mendoza and Tania Moreno Matveeva, 21-14, 21-18, to reign as the newest women’s champions of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge yesterday at the Nuvali Sand Courts in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna.

“We’re very happy that we’ve become even more solid as a pair, although we needed to make some adjustments in both sets,” said the 6-foot Tina Gaudina, 25, who started playing with Samoilova in 2016, winning the European Championships twice in 2019 (Moscow) and last year in Munich.

Ranked world No. 14, the duo were a crowd favorite at the newly-built world-class courts in Nuvali, with Graudina drawing sympathetic attention, playing Sunday’s semifinal and final with a small bandage protecting a half-centimeter wound just above her right eyelid.

“While playing, it’s all adrenalin, but before and after each match, I feel bothered,” said Graudina. She sustained the wound when the ball hit her face, breaking her sunglasses in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Graudina led from the front with 18 points on 12 hits, four blocks and two aces while Samoilova held the fort on the defensive end with 13 digs plus 12 points on 12 attacks.

Too bad, though, that the Latvian pair had to pack their bags Monday and head for Doha for the culminating leg of the tour.

“I wish we could stay longer, I know that the Philippines has so many beaches … maybe next time,” said Graudina, adding the weather was too hot for them, but one they could handle.