RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena received their reward for cruising through pool play and the first round of the Olympic beach volleyball elimination stage: A quarterfinal matchup with the world champions on their home sand.
The U.S. men remained unbeaten at the Copacabana venue on Saturday night with a 21-14, 21-15 victory over Austria. That lined them up with Brazil's Alison and Bruno, who arrived in Rio as the No. 1 seed.
"We wanted to play Brazil in Brazil, preferably in the final," said Dalhausser, the 2008 gold medalist. "We got our wish, just a little early. Hopefully we can come away with the win."
Dalhausser and Lucena won all three pool play matches, but Alison and Bruno stumbled in the group stage and lost to Austria's Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst. That dropped the Brazilians to second in their pool and led to an unlucky draw for the Americans — one of the other favorites to win the gold medal.
The teams have split their four head-to-head matchups on the international tour, with the Brazilians winning a pair of finals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Long Beach, California. The Americans won in Hamburg in a match that Dalhausser said was the best they have played.
"It will be the toughest test for us," said the 2008 Olympic gold medalist.
The Brazilian crowd taunted the Americans by shouting "Zika" at them whenever they served, apparently in response to comments from some Americans — notably women's soccer goalie Hope Solo — expressing concern over the mosquito-borne virus or mocking the host nation for the outbreak.
Dalhausser and Lucena were not among those making the comments. Dalhausser said if he had known what the crowd was saying he would have played along; he then pretended to spray himself with bug spray in the mix zone.
In the previous match Saturday night, Australia rallied after losing the first set to beat Poland and advance to a quarterfinal matchup with American women Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross.
The American women are 4-0 in their career against Australians Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden, who beat Poland 15-21, 21-16, 15-11.
In Saturday's other quarterfinals, the Dutch team of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen advanced to a matchup with countrymen Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst. It will be the third time in the beach volleyball tournament that a team has faced its compatriots.
"That's the way it is in beach volleyball," Brouwer said. "Sometimes you beat each other."