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Beach Volleyball - 27. August 2011.

Women’s top four remains unbeaten in The Hague

The top four seeded in the women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour HP Beach Open in The Hague remained unbeaten in the third round of main draw on Friday. First seeded Juliana Felisberta/Larissa Franca from Brazil and China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang have not even lost a set yet. Title defenders Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes and olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor both needed three sets to advance to round four.

World champions Juliana and Larissa had a tough first set against USA’s Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. The Americans took risk serving and were ahead almost the whole opening set. In the end the Brazilian team came back from behind and finished it off at 23-21. After that Juliana and Larissa took control and had an easy 21-15 win, leading the head-to-head series now by 17-4. They are aiming for their 42nd title, the last one dating back to Stare Jablonski one month ago.

But first they will have to get past fellow Brazilians Talita/Antonelli in the fourth round on Saturday. The title defenders had a tough game against Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr. The Swiss team could have finished it in the tiebreak, but got nervous and went down eventually: 22-20 18-21 16-18 in exactly one hour. Talita/Antonelli will play Juliana/Larissa for the 17th time, having won only on three occasions. Their last victory over the world champions dates back to The Hague last year.

Third seeded Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh played their third round match in the early morning. The Americans had not met Brazilian qualifiers Vivian da Conceicao and Taiana Lima before and were caught of guard by a strong serving Lima. She took full advantage of the windy conditions an hit more then a few aces. After a disastrous second set the two time olympic champions recovered and won the tiebreak and a spot in the fourth round (22-20 11-21 15-7).

“Lima had a very good topspin serve, all I could do was look at it”, May-Treanor said. “In the tiebreak I said to Kerri: If we just only touch it, get an arm under, even if it is not good passing it is going to effect them mentally, break their confidence. And we did. It was a tough game, and I am glad we only have one round today.”

China’s Xue/Zhang, last year’s silver medallists in the Netherlands, look relaxed and seem to ease trough the tournament. They had another win in the third round, 21-11 21-18 against Spanish duo Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo. “It looks easy, but it does not feel that way”, Xue said. “We are tall and for us these windy conditions are not in our advantage.” But the Chinese do seem candidates for the title after winning last week in Aland. Zhang: “We do not want to look too far ahead. We just play match by match. Otherwise we get nervous and lose.”

Second seeded Xue/Zhang will play Walsh/May-Treanor in the fourth round, a rematch of last week’s final in Aland. The Chinese captured the Finnish gold, their first this season, in three sets. But the Americans are still leading the statistics 9-3.

The main draw continues on Saturday with the fourth round and two rounds in the loser’s bracket. In the afternoon and evening both women’s and men’s semi-finals will be played. Seventh seeded Liliana/Baquerizo, eight-seeded Kessy/Ross, Greece’s Arvaniti/Tsiartsiani and Spain’s Liliana/Baquerizo are still in the running in the loser’s bracket. All Dutch teams are out.

The HP Beach Open is the final double gender on the FIVB World Tour calendar and the 15th stage of 16 women’s events, including the olympic test event, this season. The women’s Tour ends early November with the Thailand Open in Phuket.
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