SHANGHAI, CHINA, May 2, 2008 - Like their male counterparts, teams from Brazil and host China earned the first two spots in this week’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour event after winning a pair of Beach Volleyball matches each here Friday, but the South American entry of Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro was a “surprise”.
Seeded fourth in the 32-team women’s Main Draw at the US$350,000 China Shanghai Jinshan Open, Talita and Renata upset top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca to join third-seeded Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China as the only unbeaten teams in the second SWATCH FIVB World Tour event this season.
With their 21-19 and 21-19 win in 44 minutes over Juliana and Larissa, Talita and Renata snapped a seven-match losing streak to their Brazilian rivals on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour. In the previous 24 international meetings between the two teams, Juliana and Larissa won 21 times, including two wins at March’s season opening event in Australia.
In the Adelaide event, Renata had injured her right ankle in the first match as Juliana and Larissa came back to win 10-21, 21-16 and 15-8 in 62 minutes. Two days later on Glenelg Beach, Juliana and Larissa captured their 20th SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal by defeating Talita and Renata 21-13, 18-21 and 15-12 in 57 minutes.
“The difference today was we played very consistently throughout the match and made very few mistakes against a great team,” said the 26-year old Renata, who placed third with Talita at the 2007 China Shanghai Jinshan Open before winning the gold medal the next week in Singapore. “Our technique was very good and we stayed much focused during the match.”
Before Talita and Renata advanced to their 16th SWATCH FIVB World Tour “final four” in 48 international events together, Xue and Zhang gained a semi-final berth by defeating seventh-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich of Germany 21-14 and 21-16 in 36 minutes. It was the Chinese’s sixth-straight win over Brink-Abeler and Jurch, who won the first meeting between the two teams at the 2006 SWATCH Grand Slam stop in Paris.
Xue, who was 17 when she won the 2006 China Shanghai Jinshan Open gold medal to become the youngest player ever to claim a FIVB title, and Zhang will be competing in their 14th SWATCH semi-final in 30 career starts together since the start of the 2006 season. After winning the Jinshan Beach title two years ago, Xue and Zhang placed fifth here last season after being eliminated by Chinese rivals Jia Tian and Jie Wang.
After being upset in the first-round Thursday by 31st-seeded Mayra Garcia and Bibiana Candelas of Mexico, Tian and Wang were attempting to become the first women’s team ever to win six-straight elimination matches to reach a SWATCH semi-final. However, sixth-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook spoiled the Chinese bid with a 21-18 and 21-16 elimination win in 46 minutes over Tian and Wang.
Cook, the three-time Olympian and Sydney 2000 gold medalist with Kerri Pottharst, and Barnett face Garcia and Bibiana Candelas. The winner of the Australia-Mexico match challenges Juliana and Larissa for a semi-final spot opposite of Xue and Zhang, who defeated Cook and Barnett earlier Friday 21-19 and 23-21 in 49 minutes. Garcia and Candelas are now guaranteed Mexico’s best finish (seventh) on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since October 2005. One more win by the Mexicans will match their country’s best ever FIVB placement accomplished by Garcia and Hilda Gaxiola at a 2003 stop in Bali.
In the upper half of the China Shanghai Jinshan Open contender’s bracket, fifth-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil play ninth-seeded Vasso Karadassiou and Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece with the winner challenging Brink-Abeler and Jurch for a “final four” spot opposite of Talita and Renata.
The second of 16 double gender events on the2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar, the men’s competition for the China Shanghai Jinshan Open concludes Saturday afternoon before the women’s semi-final matches. The women’s medal matches are Sunday as the Jinshan Beach gold medal teams split the $28,000 first-place prizes.
photos Janos Schmidt