Phuket, Thailand, November 2, 2007 - Teams from China, Germany and the United States will compete here later Friday afternoon for the first two spots in the semi-finals for the US$200,000 Phuket Thailand Open powered by ptt on Karon Beach.
The United States is guaranteed one berth in Saturday afternoon’s “final four” schedule after the teams of top-seeded Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh and 13th-seeded Tyra Turner/Rachel Wacholder won their opening Main Draw matches Friday by defeating teams from Brazil.
Second-seeded Jia Tian and Jie Wang are one win away from advancing to their second-straight Phuket Thailand Open “final four” as the Chinese face 14th-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich of Germany in Friday’s second semi-final-qualifying match. Tian and Wang finished second in the 2006 Phuket Thailand Open after losing the final to Chinese rivals Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, who were eliminated Thursday to place 25th in the competition.
The reigning Olympic champions, May-Treanor and Walsh rallied from a first set setback (21-15) to eighth-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly to win the next two sets (21-16 and 16-14) against the Brazilians, who are playing in their first SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event together.
“The Brazilians played well for their first international competition together,” said Walsh as her team has now won their last 38 international Beach Volleyball matches to improve their season record to 50-1. “Both Ana Paula and Shelda are two over the very best players in the world. They play hard to the end and we were able to maintain our poise to win the last three points of the match.”
After upsetting fourth-seeded American rivals Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs Thursday afternoon, Turner and Wacholder won their fourth match in the Phuket Thailand Open by upsetting fifth-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro of Brazil 21-19 and 21-14.
Turner and Wacholder, who had to win a qualifying match Wednesday afternoon on Karon Beach to advance to the Phuket Thailand Open “money” rounds, will be seeking their first win in four international starts against May-Treanor and Walsh, who have won all 13 of the domestic meetings with their American rivals.
Tian and Wang, who are the second-ranked team on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour behind Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, won their 69th international matches in 88 contests by posting a 21-19 and 21-15 win over 26th-seeded Geeske Banck and Anja Gunther of Germany.
Brink-Abeler and Jurich, who are winless in three previous SWATCH matches with the Chinese, advanced to Frida’sy final winner’s bracket matches with an 18-21, 21-18 and 15-13 win over sixth-seeded Jen Boss and April Ross of the United States.
With the top two German teams on the Olympic provisional list not competing in the Phuket Thailand Open, Brink-Abeler and Jurich will have an opportunity to move into the second spot for their country with a bronze medal finish or better this weekend. Sara Goller and Laura Goller are currently atop the German Olympic list with 3,470 points with Athens Olympians Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau second at 2,850 points. Brink-Abeler and Jurich have 2,760 points.
An early Friday afternoon rain storm delayed the start of the day’s final 10 matches with 12 teams still in the double-elimination competition with one defeat each. After opening Saturday’s play with the final two rounds in the contender’s bracket of the double-elimination event, the Phuket Thailand Open semi-finals will be played Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s medal matches will feature the gold medal finale where the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS