Stavanger, Norway, June 27, 2007
The fourth of 13 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, fifth-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China and eighth-seeded Leila Barros/Ana Paula Connelly were defeated in their opening matches Wednesday by teams from Italy and Cuba, respectively.
Posting “major” break-throughs in the second of five “major” events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar were 25th-seeded Dalixia Fernandez Grasset/Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba and 28th-seeded Lucilla Perrotta/Daniela Gattelli of Italy along with 24th-seeded Merel Mooren/Rebekka Kadijk of the Netherlands.
The Dutch and Cubans both defeated the top-two teams in Pool H, including Leila/Ana Paula and ninth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal/Ingrid Torlen of Norway, to advance to the group’s deciding match Thursday where the winners will receive a first-round “bye” when single-elimination play starts in the afternoon. While Gattelli and Perrotta could not validate their opening Pool E by losing to group leader Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich Germany to drop into a tie with Xue and Zhang.
A second Cuban team also went undefeated Wednesday when 16th-seeded Milagros Crespo and Imara Esteves Ribalta matched the 2-0 mark posted by top-seeded Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States in Pool A. The two tandems play Thursday morning for the group leadership and a “bye” in the first-round of the 24-team single-elimination bracket.
“It was no fun out there,” said Juliana Felisberta Silva, who is seeking her third-straight ConocoPhillips Grand Slam medal after placing second in 2005 and capturing the title last season for Brazil with Larissa Franca. “However, the conditions were the same for everyone, so the advantage goes to the team that can handle the weather. We played in similar weather two weeks ago in Portugal, so we have had some recent experiences with the conditions.”
Also joining Juliana/Larissa (Pool B) and Brink-Abeler/Jurich (Pool E) in leading their group outright is seventh-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia in Pool G. Five pools (A, C, D, F and H) have a tie atop the standings with 2-0 records for each tandem.
Pool C features a tie between third-seeded Jia Tian/Jie Wang of China and 14th-seeded Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau of Germany while Pool D has produced a deadlock between the Brazilian tandems of fourth-seeded Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro and the 13th-seed Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara.).
Two-time SWATCH-FIVB World champions Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil are tied In Pool F with Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States. Adriana and Shelda are seeking to return to the ConocoPhillips Grand Slam finale after losing to Juliana and Larissa last year. Youngs claimed the 2004 Vaagen Harbour title with Holly McPeak as the pair capped their international partnership with a bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games.
Once pool play is completed Thursday, the winners of each group will advance to the second-round of the elimination bracket while the second- and third-place tandems in each pool will advance to the opening round where each team will be placed into the bracket based on their records, and set and point rations.
The ninth annual ConocoPhillips Grand Slam, the second of five “major” events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, runs through Sunday. The women’s competition concludes Saturday with the men’s medal matches Sunday as the gold medal winners will shared the $43,500 first-place prizes.
The SWATCH-FIVB World Tour continues next week in Canada before returning to Europe for the third grand slam event in Berlin July 10-15 followed by a stop in Marseille and the $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland.
photo Getty Images