DOHA, Qatar, January 29, 2023.- Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng of the United States are the first-ever Beach Pro Tour champions, winning the gold medal match of the Doha Beach Pro Tour Finals 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) over reigning world champions and world’s top-ranked team Eduarda Santos Lisboa (Duda) and Ana Patricia Ramos of Brazil.
Shortly after reuniting as a team some three months ago, the two 27-year-old Americans won gold at the first AVP Tour event together and followed up with trophies at their first two appearances on the Beach Pro Tour, November’s Challenge and Elite16 events in Torquay. They received a wild card to compete at the season Finals in Doha and mad it pay off.
Hughes and Cheng climbed to the top of the historic podium, which means they have already won four high-level tournaments in a row since teaming up.
Sunday’s gold medal match started better for ninth-seeded Hughes and Cheng. They quickly built up a four-point lead, which Duda and Ana Patricia just as quickly wiped out. For a short while, the Brazilians even stepped in front, but the Americans regained control in the money time of the first set to claim it after two consecutive swings by Hughes, for the set point and for the set winner. They broke away with an early 3-0 lead in the second set and then just kept pace until Hughes again shaped up the final 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) with a successful spike. Cheng and Duda shared the top scorer honors of the final with 20 points apiece.
“Kelly and I are so happy! That was just such an amazing finish!” Hughes exclaimed after the last whistle. “I am so proud of her! She was absolutely perfect, and I think we are very steady as a team. We are so excited to come out with a win, and we are also looking forward to next week.”
“I am speechless right now. I’m really proud of our team,” Cheng added. “We have another tournament next week, so we are probably going to get some ice cream from the mall and then sleep for like 12 hours tonight. We’ll sleep and recover as best as we can and then get out and fight next week.”
In semifinals, Hughes and Cheng recovered from losing the first set to Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlandsam with a 2-1 (24-26, 21-19, 15-10) victory. Cheng was on fire in attack and delivered the math high of 30 points, including two kill blocks. Stam and Schoon went on to win the bronze-medal.
The other two NORCECA teams competing, Americans Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth and Sarah Pavan with Sophie Bukovec of Canada finished in fifth and ninth place respectively.