Sentosa, Singapore, May 27, 2007 - Talita Antuntes and Renata Ribeiro completed their most successful weekend in the past 20 months on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour as the young Brazilians “surprised” the top two teams on the international Beach Volleyball circuit to capture the US$200,000 Singapore Open here Sunday on Siloso Beach.
Seeded third in the 32-team Main Draw field for the inaugural Singapore Open, Talita and Renata won their first SWATCH stop since September 2005 to claim their third FIVB gold medal together by upsetting second-seeded Jie Wang and Jia Tian 21-15 and 21-19 in 43 minutes to avenge an earlier defeated in the competition to the Chinese pair.
Combined with their 21-18 and 21-16 semi-final victory Saturday afternoon over top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil, Talita and Renata captured the $32,000 first-place prize at the second of 18 stops on the 2007 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar. Renata and Talita previous SWATCH gold medals were back-to-back titles in September 2005 in Athens and Bali.
Sunday’s title win also avenged a 21-18 and 21-14 setback to Jie Wang and Jia Tian in the fourth-round of the winner’s bracket Friday afternoon on Siloso Beach. The SWATCH series is now tied 4-4 between the two teams with Talita and Renata winning three of the past four meetings between the two teams.
"We are very happy that we beat the best Chinese team,” said the 25-year old Renata after her team’s third-straight podium placement on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. “We served very well and Talita blocked very well. We have been practicing a lot this year because these two years are very important for us. It's our goal to keep playing well and get into the finals all the time. We have to qualify for the Beijing Olympics."
The Singapore Open was also the second qualifying event for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games where Beach Volleyball power Brazil can place only tandems per gender in each 24-team competition. The Beijing process runs through July 20, 2008, as a team’s best eight performances in recognized Olympic Qualification tournaments (SWATCH FIVB World Tour events, SWATCH FIVB World Championships and FIVB recognized Continental Championship Finals) will be counted.
"Talita and I are friends and we like to play with each other,” added Renata, who started playing full-time internationally in 2004 while the 24-year old Talita began her career in 2005 when she became the SWATCH rookie-of-the-year. “It's easy to play with each other because we always talk technique together and technique is important when we have to play against the best."
Sunday’s final was Talita and Renata’s seventh in 32 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events together as the pair ended the 2006 season with a silver medal in Acapulco and started the 2007 campaign with a bronze medal in Shanghai where Jie Wang and Jia Tian won the gold medal by defeating Norway’s Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen in the finals.
To reach the Singapore Open semi-finals, Talita and Renata had to defeat Hakedal and Torlen in one of two matches in the finals of the elimination bracket. However, Torlen could not start the Saturday afternoon match due to stomach problems and Talita and Renata advanced to their 11th “final four” on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. The Brazilians now rank 10th on the FIVB’s all-time earnings list with $374,750 in winnings.
Jie Wang and Jia Tian were seeking their fourth SWATCH gold medal in their last six FIVB starts as the Chinese pair has now posted podium placements in those events since August 2006. With their Singapore Open silver medal and $22,000 for second-place, Jie Wang and Jia Tian have now placed on a SWATCH podium 10 times in 15 FIVB events since forming their partnership in 2006.
In the bronze medal match, fourth-seeded Chen Xue and Xi Zhang posted a 21-18 and 21-9 win over Juliana and Larissa to claim the $16,000 third-place prize. It was the young Chinese pair’s fifth SWATCH medal together in 15 FIVB starts as Chen Xue and Xi Zhang snapped a four-match losing streak to the Brazilians.
The SWATCH points champions the past two seasons, Juliana and Larissa have now placed fourth in their past two international starts after a string of 17-straight FIVB events since August 2005 where the Brazilians earned medal (nine gold, six silver and two bronze medals).
The Singapore Open was the second of four women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Asia this season. Korea hosts next week’s event in Seoul with the final women’s international Beach Volleyball event of 2007 being play in Thailand for the second-straight year during the first week of November.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS