Osaka, Japan, May 25, 2008 - Top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil rebounded from an earlier setback in the US$175,000 Keihan/SMFG Japan Open to win a pair of matches here Sunday to capture their second SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal in 2008 by defeating China’s Jia Tian and Jie Wang in the finale.
In defeating the sixth-seeded Tian and Wang 21-16, 21-9 in 36 minutes, Juliana and Larissa denied China a possible gold medal sweep Sunday on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour as their male counterparts Penggen Wu and Linyin Xu are competing for an international Beach Volleyball title in Croatia against Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil of the Netherlands at Zagreb.
Being played at the historic Nakanoshima Park on an island between the Ookawa and Tosabori Rivers, Juliana and Larissa won their last five Keihan/SMFG Japan Open matches to share the $28,000 first-place prize along with collecting their 21st SWATCH gold medal in 55 FIVB starts together since the start of the 2004 international season. Juliana was also named the SWATCH outstanding player for the event.
“Friday was a wake up call for us,” said the 26-year old Larissa in referring to her team’s 19-21, 21-16 and 16-14 setback to eighth-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia in the third-round of the winner’s bracket. “We played very poorly against the Australians, so we knew we had to regain our focus.”
The Brazilians regained their focus against Barnett and Cook earlier Sunday by defeating the Australians 21-19 and 21-14 in the first Keihan/SMFG Japan Open semi-final match to even the series between the two teams at 3-3. It was Barnett and Cook’s third-straight match against a Brazilian team this weekend as the Aussies advanced to the semi-finals Friday afternoon with a win over fourth-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly.
Like Juliana and Larissa, Tian and Wang also rebounded from a Friday afternoon setback to their Sunday semi-final opponent to reach the Keihan/SMFG Japan Open gold medal match with four-straight wins. After reaching the “final four” with a win over Shelda and Ana Paula late Saturday, Tian and Wang scored an 18-21, 21-18 and 15-6 semi-final win in 54 minutes over third-seeded compatriots Chen Xue and Xi Zhang.
Tian and Wang, who split $19,500 for their second-place finish, fell into the contender’s bracket after losing 21-18 and 21-17 in the third-round of the winner’s bracket to the 19-year old Xue and the 23-year old Zhang. Sunday’s semi-final match was 20th SWATCH meeting between the two Chinese teams with Tian and Wang now leading 15-5.
Sunday’s gold medal affair was the third-time the two teams have met for a FIVB title with Juliana and Larissa winning twice, including a victory last August in Finland. The Brazilians are now 21-14 in FIVB finales while the Tian and Wang, who defeated Juliana and Larissa for an Austrian Grand Slam gold medal in 2006, are now 3-9 in SWATCH title matches. Overall, Juliana and Larissa have an 8-4 edge in the series with Tian and Wang.
In the bronze medal match, Xue and Zhang won their fifth-straight match in as many meetings with Barnett and Cook by scoring a 21-17 and 21-17 victory in 43 minutes over the Australians. The Chinese pair, who have medaled in the last three SWATCH stops, split $14,000 for third-place while Barnett and Cook shared $10,500 in their second FIVB “final four” appearance.
Double gender competition resumes on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Monday in Spain for an event in Barcelona. The Spanish stop is the first of nine-straight SWATCH events in Europe with seven of the competitions featuring qualifying for August’s Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.