Having taken nine silver and six bronze medals in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, the 28-year-old Ludwig finally touched the gold with the 2-1 (23-21, 19-21, 15-9) victory in the rain.
“I’m so happy because there was a long time no winning the tournament. A lot of finals, always lost,“ said Ludwig. “I’m really happy especially because it’s a Grand Slam and it was a big thing and it’s the second year with Kira and we were doing a good job. I am so happy.“
It was also the first World Tour triumph for Walkenhorst, who had reaped two silvers and one bronze in four previous final four appearance in World Tour events. Bouncing back from a 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) upset loss to Australian qualifiers Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho in the opening pool play on Thursday, Ludwig/Walkenhorst claimed seven wins in a row to land the title of the first Grand Slam event of the season.
“It’s an amazing tournament. All the best teams were here and there were a lot of surprises, a lot of surprise winners and a lot of surprise losers. We have proved that we can compete and I can’t wait playing with Kira in the next World Tour tournament.”
Roared on by full-packed home fans in the Jinshan City Beach Stadium, the Chinese duo jumped to a 12-6 lead in the first set, but the German pair soon answered with a 5-0 run to pull within 12-11. Then Yue Yuan came up big with three aces in a row to cap a 4-0 burst of China that pushed them up to 17-12. However, Ludwig/Walkenhorst steaidly pulled it back at 18-all before overtaking the lead at 20-19. Wang/Yue beat off two set points, only to find Ludwig convert on the third with a nice spike.
“It was really hard for us because the fans were really loud cheering for the Chinese players,“said Ludwig. “We were not really focused from the beginning, but we kept fighting, tried to communicate more and tried to serve better and that worked. We got some points in a row and this made the Chinese players nervous. We were fighting till the end and it worked for us.“
Trailing by 16-13 in the second set, Wang/Yue ran off six points in a row including three straight blocks of Wang against Ludwig to overtake the lead at 19-16 and went on to level it at 1-1. In the tiebreaker, the Chinese seemed to be running out of steam as Ludwig/Walkenhorst pulled away from a 5-5 tie for a 11-6 lead and never looked back.
Wang and Yue, who had already secured their best results at the World Tour by making the semi-finals on Saturday, could be satisfied with the silver medal.
“For sure we were the underdogs in the final and we just wanna try our best,“ said the 26-year-old Yue. “Leading or trailing, we just fought point by point.“
“It’s already our best result and best performance,“ Wang said. “I was quite nervous because it’s our first final. At least we have tried our best and showed how well we can play.“
Earlier on Sunday, Wang/Yue upset Brazil’s sixth seeds Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 15-10) to reach the final while Agatha/Seixas recovered soon enough to beat defending champions Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima in an all-Brazilian clash 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) to take home the bronze medal.
It was the first Grand Slam medal for Agatha/Seixas, whose previous best was a third place at the Bangsaen Open in 2012.
“We really enjoy playing here in Shanghai. Last year we could not play together and this year we continued our partnership. We are very happy with this medal and hopefully we can go step by step and improve our game,“ said Seixas.
Talita, who had been crowned in Shanghai with Renata Martins Ribeiro, Maria Antonelli and Lima in 2008, 2009 and 2013 respectively, settled for the fourth place with Lima this time following a fifth finish at the season-opening Fuzhou Open last week.
After the conclusion of the first Grand Slam event of the season, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour will continue in Mexico with the Puerto Vallarta Open next week.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt