China's Chen Xue (left) and Xi Zhang seek second Phuket Thailand Open gold medal
Phuket, Thailand, October 25, 2007 - After a four-week break, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour resumes action with the final 2007 qualifying event for the Beijing Olympic Games with the teams from the ABCs of Beach Volleyball headlining the field for US$200,000 Phuket Thailand Open.
Led by reigning Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, teams from America (seven gold medals), Brazil (seven) and China (one) have combined to win 15 of the 16 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events this season with Australia claiming the remaining title by winning the last Asian international stop this past June in Seoul, Korea.
A total of 63 women’s teams from 27 countries have entered the Phuket Thailand Open, including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the Ukraine and the United States.
The second annual Phuket Thailand Open is the fourth Asian stop on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. Play begins with a qualifier here Wednesday (October 31) to determine the final eight berths for the 32-team Main Draw. With the November 3 semi-finals highlighting the first three days of play in the “money” rounds, the medal matches will be staged November 4 where the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize.
The Chinese pair of Jia Tian and Jie Wang won the season opener in Shanghai followed by a Brazilian title two weeks later in Singapore by Talita Antunes and Renata Riberio. Both teams are in Phuket Thailand Open field as Seoul winners Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia had to withdraw earlier this month due to injuries.
May-Treanor and Walsh have won six of their seven SWATCH starts this season, including the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Switzerland. Including a “perfect” world championship mark of 8-0 in Gstaad where the Americans defeated Tian and Wang for the gold medal, May-Treanor and Walsh have posted a 47-1 FIVB record this season by winning 94 of 102 sets for $277,500 in winnings.
China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, the third-ranked team on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, are the defending Phuket Thailand Open champions after winning the inaugural 2006 event on Karon Beach by upsetting May-Treanor and Walsh in the semi-finals (21-18 and 21-16) and Tian and Wang for the gold medal (21-18 and 21-15).
Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, who clinched their third-straight SWATCH tour championship last month in Brazil despite losing the Fortaleza finale to May-Treanor and Walsh, have also withdrawn from the Phuket Thailand Open due to domestic commitments.
With five gold medals in 2007 and $328,400 in earnings, Juliana and Larissa edged Tian and Wang for the SWATCH tour title. The Chinese can not overcome the Brazilian’s 7,140 point total for their best 12 FIVB finishes this season. Tian and Wang have compiled 6,740 points this season and a Phuket Thailand Open gold medal would put the Chinese 100 points behind Juliana and Larissa at 7,040.
The 18-year old Xue and the 21-year old Zhang have amassed 5,870 points for their best 12 SWATCH finishes this season and need a fifth-place or better to improve their final FIVB total in 2007. After winning two events in 2006, Xue and Zhang are winless this season with three seconds, six medals and eight “final four” finishes for $216,800 in winnings.
The Phuket Thailand Open is the seventh SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event to be held in Southeast Asia since the start of the women’s international Beach Volleyball Tour in 1002. Americans Holly McPeak and Nancy Reno won the first event in the region in 1995 at Bali with Brazilians winning three stops and Chinese topping two of the podiums.
The men’s 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar concluded last month in Fortaleza where reigning Olympic champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil clinched their fifth-straight point’s title by winning the South American stop by defeating world champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the United States in the finals.