TOKYO (Reuters) -Brazil's Bruno Schmidt and Evandro Oliveira kickstarted their beach volleyball campaign in Pool E with a hard-fought victory over Chile's Marco and Esteban Grimalt at Shiokaze Park on Sunday.
Reigning Pan American Games champions, the Grimalt cousins are Chile's pioneering beach volleyball players, and gave the Brazilian duo a tough fight in a 21-15, 16-21, 15-12 loss.
Schmidt, who won gold in Rio in 2016, was the shortest man on court but kept the ball in play with an impressive 14 digs, combining power and finesse to score points with spikes and deft touches at the net to evade blocks.
His partner Evandro, the 2017 world champion who stands at 2.10 metres tall, was a force to reckon with at the net, firing five aces with well-placed serves.
"You guys can call me crazy, but I like the way we started," Schmidt said on playing a tough opening match. "We faced everything in that match. We lost so many easy service (points).
"Matches like this prepare you for everything."
Rio's Italian silver medallists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai were also tested by Germany's Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole in a tight encounter.
Wickler made 19 successful digs as Germany took the first set but Italy piled on the pressure and it took a Herculean effort to win 19-21 21-19 15-13.
"It was a great game to play. Both teams deserved to win," Nicolai said. "There are few teams who play at the level of the Germans. The score was so close."
American Jacob Gibb, aged 45, became the oldest beach volleyball player to participate in the Olympics when he and partner Tri Bourne beat Italy's other pair of Enrico Rossi and Adrian Raurich 21-18 21-19.
Gibb, now a four-time Olympian, needed a new partner after Taylor Crabb was ruled out due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Poland's Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak beat Japan's Yusuke Ishijima and Katsuhiro Shiratori in straight sets with a 21-15, 21-14 victory in Pool F. Kantor's presence at the net allowed Poland to win six points off blocks.
In the women's draw, Australia's Mariafe del Solar and Taliqua Clancy were too good for Cuba, winning 21-15, 21-14, both Australians sharing the load in receiving and attacking the ball.
Cuba's Lidianny Benitez and Leila Ortega attempted to win points with faster serves which cost them six errors instead, while Clancy fired four aces as the Australians opened their account in Pool E.
The U.S. pair of April Ross and Alix Klineman also beat China in straight sets in their Pool B match, winning 21-17, 21-19.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Karishma Singh)