A SLEW of talented international players vying for tournament points are arriving today as they brace for the main draw of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open set to open later this week at the Sands SM By The Bay.
Paraguay's Michelle Amarilla, who with Gabriela Filippo battled with the legendary United States pair of April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the first knock-out round of the 2015 Beach Volleyball World Championships, will banner the 16-pair women's cast.
The highest rated team in the field, Amarilla will have Erika Bobadilla as her partner in the competition which the Philippines is making its hosting debut. The Paraguayans hope to bounce back in Manila after the duo failed to make it to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Malaysia Open semifinals in Langkawi last Sunday.
Ayumi Kusano, who played for Japan that won the Spike for Peace beach volleyball crown in 2015 at the Philsports Arena with Akiko Hasegawa, will return for another run at glory, this time with her partner Takemi Nishibori.
The young Netherlands pair of Katja Stam and Julia Wouters, who lost to Russia’s Ksenia Dabizha and Daria Mastikova in the women’s gold medal match of the Malaysia Open last Sunday, will also be worth-watching in the $10,000, one-star tournament organized by the Beach Volleyball Republic
Another player to watch out in the Manila Open is Lindsey Fuller, the 2014 US NVL Most Improved Player who will be paired with Kaley Melville for United States.
In the men's division, Austria’s Simon Fruhbauer and Jorg Wutzl, who earned their first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour gold medal at the Malaysia Open last Sunday at the expense Russia’s Petr Bakhnar and Taras Myskiv, will be the tandem to watch out.
The Austrian pair has been playing together since 2016.
Silver medalists Bakhnar and Myskiv will also be here in Manila along with Germany's Paul Becker and Eric Stadie, who lost to Thailand's I. Nuttanon and P. Sedtawat in the bronze medal match in Langkawi Open last weekend.
The highest-rated team in the men's division is Sweden's Martin Apprelgen and Simon Boman, who placed ninth in Langkawi.
Among those early arrivals is Israel, which split its four tune-up sets with Filipinos James Pecaña and KR Guzman, and Ranran Abdilla and Edwin Tolentino Monday night. Israel is among the 16 teams vying for four men's slots in the main draw.
The Philippines has entered four women's pairs in the main draw, with high-flying University of Santo Tomas standout Sisi Rondina and Dzi Gervacio leading the charge.
Rondina, a three-time UAAP beach volleyball champion, is no stranger to international tournaments, having represented the Philippines in last year's 29th Southeast Asian Beach Volleyball Championships in Singapore with Bernadeth Pons.
Other Filipinas competing are sand court veterans Charo Soriano and Bea Tan, two-time BVR national champions Karen Quilario and Lot Catubag, and wildcard entries DM Demontaño and Jackie Estoquia.
BVR national champions Jade Becaldo and Calvin Sarte and Kevin Juban and Raphy Abanto complete the men's cast.
The competition will commence with the men's division qualifiers on Thursday and before moving into the main draw for women and men on Friday.
The round of 12 and the quarterfinals are scheduled on Saturday with the semifinals and finals on Sunday.
The event is promoted by E-Plus Global Sdn Bhd and organized by Beach Volleyball Republic Inc.