This past weekend we hosted the Southern Open, the first 4* event of the 2023 UK Beach Tour. The Southern Open saw England’s #3 pairing, Niko Gleed and Harry Jones take their first title of the year, and Lorena Tussis and Gerda Berstautaite capturing the Women’s title on the glorious Sandbanks beach. Check out the full tournament lowdown below!
The Southern Open represented a highly anticipated development of the UKBT, which sees the growth of the elite levels of beach volleyball in the UK, and opening up of more opportunities for higher level play.
We had 24 Men's, and 15 Women's teams of the UK’s top beach volleyball players and rising stars, make their way down to Sandbanks to battle for a shot at the podium.
MEN'S SOUTHERN OPEN TOURNAMENT
Going into the event, the possibilities of former teammates facing off against one another were plentiful, and the draw did not disappoint! England’s Dunbavin/Morgan secured a quarter final victory over Lawson/Soczewka, whilst Scotland’s Stewart/Mexson defeated McKelvie/McHardy for a semi finals berth.
Both teams would go on to finish joint 3rd, with Gleed/Jones defeating Stewart/Mexson and Bello/Seekings defeating Dunbavin/Morgan in their respective semi-finals, setting up a final showdown between two of England’s top ranked pairings.
Both teams traded points early in the opening set, but it was Gleed/Jones who made the first break in set 1, converting on some tough service pressure to secure the set 21-17.
Set 2 saw Bello/Seekings continue to side-out well, with crafty play from Bello and consistent aggression from Seekings. But the serving pressure from Gleed, coupled with calm side-out from Jones, helped the team open up a gap, securing the set 21-15 and with that, the championship.
Harry Jones was pleased with the performance of his team:
“It was really nice to be able to win our first title of the year at the Southern Open. Obviously we were very disappointed to not qualify in the Madrid Futures event earlier this week, so for us to bounce back mentally and win this event a few days later was a real positive start to the season.
eThis was the first time I've played a tournament in Sandbanks since 2019, so a big thank you to Deep Dish and UKBT for bringing the Open to Bournemouth!"
WOMEN'S SOUTHERN OPEN TOURNAMENT
This time last year, Lorena Tussis was sitting at home with a severe ACL injury, desperate to step foot on court but unable to participate in any training. Fast forward to last weekend, you may never have guessed she was ever injured!
In the semi finals, Tussis/Berstautaite came up against England’s Victoria Palmer and Beth Morgan, a new pairing who bounced back from an opening loss on Saturday to make it all the way through to the semi finals. Whilst Palmer/Morgan secured the first set, it was the defensive mastery of Tussis/Berstautaite that allowed them to bounce back in the windy conditions and take a 2-1 victory.
On court 2, Maia Darling and Laura Bugnariu secured their finals spot by defeating Silvia Angelini and Barbara Zorzi; the Italian duo that rolled back the years for an impressive performance in the morning quarter finals. However, the power and control of Darling/Bugnariu meant that they finished joint third with Palmer/Morgan.
The Women's final provided yet another three set thriller; Maia Darling, the youngest player on court, showed composure and confidence behind her years to help bring her team back from a set behind and force a decider. With both teams hustling for point after point, it was Lorena and Gerda that managed to edge out 15-13 in the third set; and with that, the Southern Open title.
The Women’s champions were thrilled with their performance:
“We had a wonderful time in Bournemouth and truly enjoyed our time on court. We had a pure blast having so many tight matches and feeling grateful just being able to compete again.”
The Southern Open on the UK Beach Tour encapsulated the essence of this dynamic and growing sport, particularly the growth of our elite level athletes. With a perfect blend of fierce competition, standout performances, and enthusiastic crowds, the tournament was a stepping stone for an incredible season ahead for many of these athletes.
Stay tuned for more exciting tournaments this summer with the UK’s top athletes or check out our other UKBT tournaments that you can get involved with, or the UK Beach Tour calendar to get involved in the other Opens around the UK!