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2016-06-08 17:48:00 CEST

Happy birthday…not!

In-form Italians have cause to celebrate – even if it’s not their birthday!

 Paolo/Nicolai in their first appearance at smart Major Hamburg; Photocredit: Daniel Grund Paolo/Nicolai in their first appearance at smart Major Hamburg; Photocredit: Daniel Grund

We pretty much had egg all over our faces when we approached Paolo Nicolai after he and his partner Daniele Lupo’s first match at smart Hamburg Major today.

“Happy birthday, Paolo!”

“It’s not my birthday!” he smiled graciously back at us. “There’s something wrong somewhere in a database, my birthday’s on 6 August – somebody needs to switch the numbers around!”

“Oh okay, happy un-birthday!” he joked back.

Well, whether it was his birthday or not it was still worth for us chatting with the gentle giant.

After all, together with Lupo, the duo have stormed to two gold medal wins in their last three tournaments – at Sochi in May and then last week at the European Championships.

So can they add to their medal haul here in Hamburg and what makes the Swatch Major Series so special?

“What I’ve learned in my years is to take one game at a time. You have to fight in every single match because all the teams are amazing,” said Paolo.

“That’s why it is a Major. At this kind of event you can feel you are doing something special. All of the staff are for you, everything is about the players and we’re in the middle of it.”

The Italians made light work of Polish pair Michal Kadziola and Jakub Szalankiewicz, winning in straight sets – but two difficult matches lie ahead on Wednesday.

“It’s a good way to start because we’ve always had trouble against them,” said Paolo about the Poles. “We’re proud with the win but we’ll see what happens.

“We have the Austrian team who we know very well and of course the Latvians with Plavins who won bronze in the Olympics, so every single match is difficult.”