Dubbed the oldest and most prestigious invitational tournament in world volleyball, the Montreux Masters has been welcoming the world’s best players to the banks of Lake Geneva since 1984.
Nowadays the competition tends to serve as a warm-up for major international events, but it continues to thrill the thousands who flock to the picturesque lakeside town each year for a feast of volleyball.
As it prepares to celebrate its 34th staging, we take a glance back through the history of the Montreux Masters to get a flavour of what lies in store this time round.
The tournament was originally named The Nations’ Cup when founder Olivier Vogel welcomed five European teams to Switzerland for a ’round robin’ event, with the Netherlands claiming the first gold ahead of Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia and Belgium.
It took four years for the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to recognise the tournament, which opened up to teams from outside Europe before being renamed the BCV Volley Cup in 1990.
Cuba, Brazil and China dominated the tournament in the 90s, apart from the Soviet Union’s triumph in 1991, with European sides struggling to break the stranglehold of volleyball’s top nations.
Italy clinched gold in 2004 as European volleyball began to gain ground, and the last five years of the tournament have seen Germany, Turkey and Italy again come out on top as the dominance of the ‘big three’ has waned.
Cuba still top despite barren spell
The historic medal list at the Montreux Masters still puts Cuba out in front, despite the Central Americans having failed to win the tournament since 2008.
Their nine golds put them two ahead of Brazil and three clear of China, while Russia and Italy are the only teams to have won the tournament just twice.
Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, France and the Czech Republic have one gold each, and the United States have yet to win the Masters despite picking up four silvers and two bronze medals.
Three of the best
The Montreux Masters only began selecting a tournament MVP in 2007, but there have been some stellar players to have graced the competition.
The inagural award went to Cuba’s towering talent Nancy Carrillo. At 6ft 3in tall, Carrillo was an imposing presence and could play middle blocker and opposite to equally devastating effect. She went into the 2007 Masters having been named MVP at the Pan-America Games, the NORCECA Championship and the Pan-American Cup, and delivered again in Montreux as Cuba claimed silver.
After the Montreux Masters was cancelled in 2012 due to a clash with the Olympic Games, it returned in 2013 as Brazil clinched their sixth title and Fernanda Garay turned in a stellar performance.
Having won gold with Brazil at the Olympics, the wing spiker enjoyed one of the finest seasons of her career in 2012-13 and carried her good form to Montreux, where she was named tournament MVP following a 3-0 victory over Russia in the final.
While she is unlikely to feature at this year’s Montreux Masters, due to her club commitments at the CEV Champions League final with Igor Gorgonzola Novara, Paola Egonu etched her name into the tournament’s history with her blistering performance at the 2018 edition.
Egonu put in a string of match-winning displays, including a 26-point tour de force in the straight sets victory over Russia in the final, setting herself up for the World Championship, where she inspired Italy to silver.