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Walsh and Ross hit stride on day one of new partnership
Triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh and London 2012 silver medallist April Ross made a winning start to their partnership with two wins from two on the opening day of the women’s main draw at the Gstaad Grand Slam on Wednesday.
They were given a sharp reminder that they wouldn’t have it all their own way early on by Dutch pair Jantine van der Vlist and Marloes Wesselink, who raced into an early lead. However, they used their experience to recover their poise and win 2-1 (21-19, 14-21, 15-10).
In their second match they met qualifiers Barbara Hansel and Katharina Schutzenhofer and won 2-0 (21-15, 21-19). They sit second in their pool behind Maria Clara and Carolina Salgado and now meet the Brazilians sisters in a match that will decide who goes through in first place on Wednesday.
“I think it was a really great day,” Walsh said. “It was ugly from time to time, but I feel like we didn’t panic and we played together,” Walsh said. “We have good energy and I feel we can build off that, so I’m really happy with today.
“I was hitting balls out, but they were close and we need to be ok playing ugly right now and just work through it. It’s a mental thing and the physical will come.”
The pair’s opening match in Gstaad was Walsh’s first appearance on a beach volleyball court since the 2012 Stare Jablonki Grand Slam that followed a week after the London 2012 Olympic Games, in which Walsh and Misty May-Treanor beat Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the gold medal match.
May-Treanor retired after London 2012 and Kessy indicated that she would be stepping down towards the end of 2013. As such it made perfect sense for Ross and Walsh to partner up for their tilt at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Ross is due to play with Kessy at the Long Beach Grand Slam from July 22-27, but will go fulltime with Walsh towards the end of the year.
“It feels awesome to finally get this thing going,” Ross said. “I think this is a preview and we’re in this to win it, but it is kind of getting to know each other at the same time, but it’s fun and I’m super-stoked to be playing with her instead of across the net from her.
“It was a no-brainer; I always knew what I wanted. It was only a matter of time before the dialogue started and then it was a case of ‘when are we going to do this?’”
Kolocova and Slukova back on form
Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova were another team to make an unbeaten start in Gstaad.
The Czech Republic duo started with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-14) win over compatriots Hana Skalnikova and Patricia Missottenova, then followed that up with another 2-0 victory, this time over USA’s Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar.
“Our day was pretty good, we won two games,” Kolocova said. “Fortunately the rain stopped before our game which is good because we are a small team and it is hard for us to play in the rain because the ball gets heavy and we really need a precise game.”
Last week Kolocova and Slukova had a disappointing end to their FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013. After two wins in the pool stages, they went into the first elimination round in confident mood, but lost in straight sets to Vanuatu’s Miller Elwin and Henriette Iatika.
However, a weekend back home rejuvenated their spirits and allowed them to learn the lessons of that defeat.
“We went home from Poland on Friday and had Saturday off, then had a training session and then came here on Monday,” Kolocova added.
“We were pretty nervous before the game, because it was a good draw for us, but in the end the Vanuatu girls had an unbelievable game and we didn’t pressure them that much. We didn’t play our worst game, but I think because of nerves we didn’t pressure them enough.”
The Gstaad Grand Slam is the fifth Grand Slam of 10 on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The tournament began with women’s qualifying on Tuesday July 9 and ends with women’s and men’s medal matches on Sunday July 13.