DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - After 10 qualifying games, seven head-to-head matches and a high-scoring quarterfinal round, the doubles semifinalists have been determined at the 2021 International Bowling Federation Super World Championships.
Among them, are Team USA's Andrew Anderson and Kristopher Prather.
Their interactions and communication on the lanes, along with a track record of success, might give the impression that things are so fluid because they're familiar, but that's not the case at all. Things just clicked for the two right-handers, whose appearance this week at the Dubai International Bowling Centre marks just their fourth time together on the lanes.
The effortless partnership quickly established them as one of the top tandems on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, and they're hoping their doubles performance this week earns them global validation, as well.
"Since Kris and I found out we were coming here, we knew there was potential for us to get paired together and compete for a doubles medal on this incredible stage," said Anderson, who teamed with Prather to win the 2021 Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship. "We've shown that we're one of the best doubles teams on the PBA Tour, and now we want to prove it at the World Championships."
Their quest to add a doubles gold medal to their year will continue Saturday at 7 p.m. local time (10 a.m. Eastern) when they meet qualifying leaders Jesper Svensson and Pontus Anderson of Sweden in the semifinals.
The other match will feature Lithuania's Aidas Daniunas and Laurynas Narusis against Sweden's James Blomgren and William Svensson.
The doubles event gave competitors and fans a chance to experience a variation of Baker competition, which they'll also see versions of this week in trios, team and mixed team competition.
In the two-player version, one team member bowls the odd frames, and the other team member bowls the even frames. They were required to alternate through the day.
It is expected that the medal rounds at the 2021 IBF Super World Championships (singles, doubles, trios, team and mixed team) will take place in a specially constructed venue, potentially outdoors, though specifics have not yet been provided by IBF.
The women's doubles semifinals will precede the men's action Saturday and also will include Sweden, the reigning champion in the event.
This time, Sandra Andersson and Joline Persson Planefors will meet Denmark's Mika Guldbaek and Cecilie Dam. The other match will feature Finland's Peppi Konsteri and Ani Juntunen against Janin Ribguth and Martina Shutz of Germany.
The semifinal winners then will bowl for the gold medals, while the semifinal losers each receive bronze medals.
"I feel a lot of excitement, and I've wanted to bowl outdoors since watching the PBA Tour stars do it at Six Flags (Great America), just outside Chicago, when I was younger," Prather said. "Now, even though we don't know all the details, I get to do something similar. We've heard it's going to be in a high-traffic area with thousands of people possibly walking by, so there's a lot of potential for the growth of the sport.
"I'm really excited to be a part of that and to complete a goal Andrew and I had, regardless of which medal we come away with. We just wanted to succeed together and continue to prove we're one of the best doubles teams in the world."
Svensson also is familiar with hoisting the trophy at the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship, where he is a two-time winner with Team USA's Kyle Troup.
Troup and Anderson, along with EJ Tackett, found the spotlight together with a trios win at the 2018 IBF World Men's Championships in Hong Kong, where all three were competing for the first time. This year's event is Prather's debut.
To earn their spot in the medal round, Anderson and Prather defeated Germany's Fabian Kloos and Marco Baade, 257-237.
Svensson and Andersson topped Italy's Tommaso Radi and Erik Davolio, 245-232, and Daniunas and Narusis downed Malaysia's Safiq Ridhwan and Nevern Netaneel, 258-235.
The path for Blomgren and Svensson included a 279-249 win over Team USA's Jakob Butturff and AJ Johnson. The Swedish duo opened the match with nine consecutive strikes, before a 10 pin from Blomgren ended the run at perfection.
The United States also experienced some quarterfinal heartbreak on the women's side, as a see-saw finish ended with Ribguth and Shutz defeating Team USA's Kelly Kulick and Missy Parkin, 233-224, after Kulick failed to convert the 3-10 split in the 10th frame.
Konsteri and Juntunen defeated Malaysia's Natasha Roslan and Faten Najihah (278-256), Andersson and Planefors beat Norway's Grethe Fosseide and Jeanet Johansen (241-180) and Dam and Guldbaek topped Singapore's Cherie Tan and New Hui Fen (248-204).
The women's doubles field this week began with 45 teams, before 10 games of qualifying at the Dubai International Bowling Centre narrowed the field to the top 32, based on their 10-game pinfall totals.
Team USA's Jordan Richard and Danielle McEwan made the initial cut but did not advance to the quarterfinals.
For the men, 64 teams took the lanes.
The 32 advancing teams were divided into four groups, each with eight teams, and they all bowled seven games of round-robin match play Tuesday morning.
Points were awarded for each win in match play, and the top two teams in each group, based on points, advanced to the bracket-style quarterfinals.
It took Anderson and Prather an extra game to reach the quarterfinals because they finished match play tied with Finland's Kimmo Lehtonen and Juho Rissanen with 15 points, forcing a one-game roll-off to determine the second advancing team from their group.
Blomgren and Svensson led the group with 18 points, and Anderson and Prather were able to join them in the next round by topping Lehtonen and Rissanen, 254-202.
Butturff and Johnson managed a tie with Saudi Arabia in the final game of match play, but it gave them enough points to claim the second spot in their group outright.
Consistent with the quarterfinals Tuesday, the semifinals will be one-game matches. The championship match will be a best-of-two battle, with a ninth- and 10th-frame roll-off being used if a third game is needed.
"Some things went our way, and others didn't, but we've got a team bowling for a medal, and that's a nice way to start," Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe said. "We're continuing to learn and work together, and now we've got singles to focus on. We'll have seven people competing, and I feel confident they'll continue to bowl well and keep advancing."
So far this week, competitors in Dubai have alternated between singles and doubles competition, and it will happen a few more times.
The top 32 singles performers in each gender category will be back on the lanes Wednesday for singles match play and the singles quarterfinals.
The singles semifinals and finals are scheduled for Friday night and will mark the first medals awarded at the World Championships since 2019.
The championship round for doubles is scheduled for Saturday, trios will conclude Sunday and both team and mixed team will wrap up Monday. All three will feature variations of the Baker format from start to finish.
Additional medals will be awarded to the most valuable athletes and top-performing federations.
The IBF Super World Championships is the first of three events being held in Dubai, concluding Nov. 15. It will be joined by the inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships and followed by the IBF Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships.
IBF is providing livestream coverage and complete results at strikecloud.com.
For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.