From seemingly out of nowhere David Åhman and Jonatan Hellvig won King of the Court Utrecht 2021. Both 19 years of age, they surprised even the most seasoned pairings with their Swedish jump sets and fast samba-styled plays. Their names were instantly known, teams feared the blonde Scandinavians, they were dubbed as King of the Court machines. In Doha during the Finals they came in third, after pulling off the highest score ever in a King of the Court tournament in the semis. David and Jonatan tell us all about last season and what they did with the four Maurice Lacroix watches they won in Utrecht.
We spoke with them one week before their maiden win on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour in Türkiye. We asked them what needed to happen before they would be able to win on the Pro Tour. This was their answer.
David: “I think we need to have fewer mistakes. On youth tournaments you get a lot of free stuff from your opponents, but on the senior level players are much better at getting the ball on the sand. You can’t make mistakes if you want to win tournaments. Especially for us, we don’t have the height that they do. We try to play difficult with quick sets and jump sets and everything. We need to make it work as much as possible without making mistakes. I think that’s key for us to start to win some tournaments.”
Jonatan agrees: “The consistency in side-out and everything we do is the most important thing to focus on for us.”
That’s what they did in Kuşadası, Türkiye, where they beat some high-ranked teams on their way to the title. When David referred to youth tournaments, they have lots of experience in those. For the last few years, they have made themselves known in the age groups all over the world. They have won three European Championships in the youth categories (u18, u20, u22), they won gold at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 in Argentina and last December they won the World Championships under 21 in Thailand.
CM. com King of the Court Utrecht 2021
Despite winning those youth titles, they came to Utrecht under the impression they wouldn’t be able to win at the age of 19. “Coming into King of the Court for the first time, we didn’t think it would go that well”, David explains. “At least our coach was like: I don’t think our playing style will fit that well into King of the Court. The jump sets depend on good reception and the service pressure is very high in King of the Court, so we thought we wouldn’t get the ball up to the net to be able to do jump sets like we want to. But when we do, our side-out efficiency is high. I think we managed to take care of the service pressure very well, that’s why it’s been working so well for us.”
Jonatan adds: “Also I think we play kind of different than other teams. When you play King of the Court there are five teams on the court at the same time. It’s hard to scout every team and know what every player does. You can’t have a strategy against all of them. Since we play a little bit differently, it’s good for us, because other teams may focus more on the other teams. The way we play can surprise the other teams. In a normal game they will watch our matches beforehand, and they will see that if we do a jump set, they know what to do. It’s harder to do that in King of the Court.”
Match point controversy
In the last round of the final David and Jonatan were on 14 points very quickly. But getting it over the line proved to be difficult. On three occasions Belgian Tom Van Walle hit amazing aces. With 1.40 on the clock a jump set by Jonatan was considered to be incorrectly played by referee Bas van der Meijden, a decision that was met with protest by the crowd and players as well.
Referee Bas van der Meijden remembers it very well. “I felt pretty bad afterwards. Having the match point in their hand, doing one of their fantastic jump sets. And at that moment I decide, hmmm, not the best technical handling of that ball. And I whistle it. With only a minute and thirty playing time left, I really expected them to get back to the King’s side and finish it with a clean set. But time ran out, we finished the game, and the winners were not actually on court, playing.”
Jonatan laughs: “Maybe it was the right decision to make, because it wasn’t the best jump set. But there were just a few minutes left, we had 14 points, so he could have been nice to let us win the point instead of waiting for the time to run out.”
“We were like: ‘ah, come on ref!’ But we knew it was a bad set”, David says with a big smile.
Check out the moment below
Maurice Lacroix watches
As Kings of Utrecht and the team with the Longest Stay of the tournament they each won two Maurice Lacroix watches. With a price tag of over € 1,100 each these are some hot items. David laughs and admits that he barely wears it: “I’m too afraid to wear it. This is too expensive; I can’t come on court with this watch on. We gave watches to our two coaches. We had two each, they deserved one as well. The other watch I just put away safely.”
King of the Court Finals 2021 in Doha
The Swedish pair traveled to Doha, Qatar for the Finals as Kings, which might have given them some pressure. They were almost eliminated in the first round of their first match. Jonatan remembers it well. “For us it started pretty bad in the first round, but we managed to get through the first fifteen minutes. After that it just went better and better each round. We played amazing in the whole tournament.”
David: “It was in the semifinals we played our best. We had this one round where we had the longest stay (16, ed.) and everything (a total of 63 points in the semifinal, ed.) After that we were super tired. Maybe we should have preserved some energy.”
“We still played good in the final. In King of the Court it’s always very close. A few more points and we could have had a second place. You never know, but we are super happy with the third place.” Jonatan concurs: “Qatar and the Netherland played really well in the final, there wasn’t much for us to do.”
King of the Court in Sweden
This year the first-ever Swedish Championship in King of the Court will be held. David and Jonatan see the potential for the game in their Scandinavian country. David: So many people I’ve talked to said: ‘Oh, we really need to have a King of the Court tournament in Sweden, we really want to try it out.’ Especially younger players are super hooked on it. They want to play.”
Scandinavian hook-up in King of the Court?
In our last interview Beach Volley Viking Anders Mol called the two Swedish jump setters King of the Court machines. And he added that he would like to play with one of them in a future tournament if opportunity comes knocking. Jonatan: “That sounds super fun.” David replies: “That’s incredible, it would be really fun. If Jonatan is injured in the future, I will ask him.”
When asked who they would also like to play with if perhaps the other player isn’t available, they know who to ask besides Anders Mol and Christian Sørum. They would like to play with Aleksandrs Samoilovs or Janis Šmēdiņš. Jonatan says. “We have practiced with them a lot and they are very nice guys. They play really fun beach volleyball.”
David agrees: “I would like to play with Samoilovs. He seems like a very fun guy to play with. They kind of play like we do. Lot of jumps sets and stuff. I think it also will be fun to play with him on court, with his celebrations and everything.”