Kristiansand, Norway, August 10, 2007 - Women’s Beach Volleyball pairs from Brazil and China claimed the first two spots in the US$350,000 Otera Open “final four” here Friday with the last two berths for Saturday’s semi-finals and medal matches to be determined later in the day.
Top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil and second-seeded Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China each captured winner’s bracket quarter-final matches Friday mid-day in the inaugural Otera Open to advance to the “final four” matches where teams from Belgium, China, Germany, Norway and Switzerland still have a chance for semi-final spots via the elimination bracket.
Juiliana and Larissa reached their ninth semi-final this season in 10 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour starts by defeating fourth-seeded Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany 21-17 and 21-15 in 43 minutes. It was the same German team that ousted Juliana and Larissa from the Norwegian grand slam six weeks ago in Stavanger that snapped the Brazilians streak of 23-straight “final four” appearances.
“We gave it our best today,” said Rau after the match as her team has now dropped their last three meetings with the Brazilians since Stavanger for a 2-9 FIVB record against Juliana and Larissa. “I was terrible at siding out. To defeat Juliana and Larissa, you have to side out and take advantage of the few mistakes they make. We did that in Stavanger and put a lot of pressure on them. Today, they were almost flawless.”
While Juliana and Larissa were dropping the Germans into the elimination bracket where Pohl and Rau still have an opportunity for their first “final four” appearance this season, Xue and Zhang out-lasted third-seeded Chinese rivals Jia Tian and Jie Wang 21-16 and 30-28 in 45 minutes. It was Chen and Zhang’s fourth win in 15 SWATCH meetings with Tian and Wang.
While the Brazilians were advancing to their 40th SWATCH “final four” in 48 FIVB starts together since the start of the 2004 season, Xue and Zhang gained their fourth-straight international Beach Volleyball semi-final berth, their seventh this year and their 12th in 26 career events together.
Juliana and Larissa will now be challenged by the winner of elimination match featuring Tian and Wang against either 28th-seeded Liesbet Van Breedam and Liesbeth Mouha of Belgium or ninth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway. Tian and Wang are the top-ranked team on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour ahead of Xue/Zhang and Juliana/Larissa.
Competing for a spot opposite of Xue and Zhang in Saturday’s second semi-final are two German teams and 27th-seeded Simone Kuhn and Lea Schwer, who are now guaranteed their best SWATCH finish this season entering their Friday afternoon elimination match against 10th-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich of Germany.
The 10th of 13 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Otera Open concludes Sunday with the men’s semi-finals and medal matches. Following this week’s Otera Open, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour remains in Europe for three more events.
An inaugural double gender event will be played on the Finnish isle of Aland next week before taking a week off. The international tour resumes for the final double gender event in Europe at St. Petersburg followed by a men’s only stop in Mazury region of Poland.
Michael Bradley Photography