06.06.2019 - Hamburg
Hamburg, meine Perle, as the song goes. The white balls which contained the names of those teams heading to the World Championships in the city could have easily been mistaken for pearls from the deep blue sea such was the glamour Hamburg’s opulent town hall during Tuesday’s Drawing of Lots.
The 96 teams heading for north Germany at the end of this month certainly have a dazzling prize to play for when it all kicks off at the Rothenbaum on June 28: the world title, a ticket to Tokyo and a chunk of the one million US Dollars in prize money.
And with the pools drawn, it’s all about to get real. Soon, the early morning peeps of the referees’ whistle will replace the tweets of the birds from the nearby trees while; the ‘quiet please’ of tennis is shunted to one side by Here Comes the Boom and a deafening cacophony of 10,000 German fans all whacking their precious Klatschpappen.
So with the time ticking down towards the first service of the 12th edition of the World Championships, we did some very – very – basic calculations to calculate which teams have got it tough in the opening stages in Hamburg.
Basically, we took the current world rankings of each team in each group and divided it by four, and did the same with the amount of points each team accumulated to qualify. There’s no mad science to this, it’s totally for fun and yes we know the world rankings are always out of sync when teams changes or if a team isn’t so active on the World Tour.
So, what did we find?
Pool F is the hardest men’s group
Well, you only have to take one look at the pool to realize this anyway. It’s probably the closest thing we have to a group of death when looking at the four teams’ positions in the FIVB world rankings.
Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser of the US, despite being the number 5 seeds, would be actually ranked third out of quartet on world rankings, as they sit in 24th spot. But there's mitigating circumstances: the Americans have played the least amount of tournaments of any of their rivals.
Dutch duo Alex Brouwer and Rob Meeuwsen, the 2013 world champions, are currently seventh in the world, while Canadians Ben Saxton and Grant O’Gorman lie in 22nd. Argentinians Julian Azaad and Nicholas Capogrosso were the highest ranked team in the final round of the Drawing of Lots, and therefore their 63rd place in the ranking tipped the balance in toughness level in the pool.
The four team’s average qualification points was the second highest of any pool, behind that of Pool A, which includes Vikings Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.
Pools F and L are the toughest women’s pools
If, if, if, if, if, the World Rankings are to believed then there two pools in the women’s draw that represent the toughest to escape. Pool L’s average FIVB Ranking is 34.5, Pool F’s 34.75.
In Pool F, last year’s Hamburg World Tour Finals champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa (world number 3s) are joined by Fan Wang/Xinyi Xia of China (25), rising Japanese pairing Miki Ishii/Megumi Murakami (16) and Cubans Mailen Deliz/Leila Ortega (95). The Caribbean duo could be dark horses: they seldom play on the World Tour but won a FIVB gold in Turkey in 2018. However, have won four out of four tournaments played on the NORCECA tour so far this year. In 2017, with Lidiannis Echeverria, Leila finished ninth before losing in three sets to Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson.
In Pool K, Brazilians Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixas – world champion with Agatha in 2015 – will be aiming to get back to the kind of form that saw them win the Fort Lauderdale Major in March 2018. That was the last time the pair won gold, although they took silver in Vienna last year. The world number 13s face an up-and-coming Finnish pair of Taru Lathi/Anniina Parkkinen, who are currently 18 in the world, Slovaks Natalia Strbova/Andrea Dubovcova (27) and Mexicans Zaira Orellena/Martha Revuelta (80).
There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics. And when they’re as trivial as the ones we’ve converted then it’s probably best you take the above analysis with a big pinch of salt (sand in this case). Especially when this is the World Championships – the biggest tournament in the sport, with all four corners of the globe represented.
So just get down to the Rothenbaum and watch the battle commence. It’s going to be one to remember.