Marseille, France, July 20, 2007 -
With the teams of Jia Tian/Jie Wang of China and Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro of Brazil having Friday off after winning their semi-final-qualifying matches Thursday, Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China and Efthalia Koutroumanidou and Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece claimed the last two spots in the women’s World Series 13 “final four” with wins over teams from Germany.
The top-seeded Tian and Wang, who placed fourth in the 2006 World Series 13 on the Plages du Prado after losing their last two matches to Brazilian teams, will play the second-seeded Xue and Zhang for the 14th time on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Saturday morning seeking their 12th win against their young Chinese rivals.
The sixth-seeded Talita and Renata, who reached a SWATCH semi-final for only the second time in the last eight events after placing third and first in the first two FIVB starts this season in Shanghai and Singapore, respectively, will play the 20th-seeded Koutroumanidou and Tsiartsiani in Saturday second “final four” match. It will be the 11th international Beach Volleyball matches between the two teams with the Brazilians leading 8-2.
Xue and Zhang, who dropped into the elimination bracket after losing 23-21, 16-21 and 15-13 to Talita and Renata, advanced to their fourth SWATCH-FIVB World Tour semi-final this season and ninth in 23 international Beach Volleyball starts together with a 21-15, 23-25 and 15-12 win over 11th-seeded Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany.
It was Xue and Zhang’s third win in as many SWATCH matches with the Germans as Pohl and Rau were playing their second match Friday after posting a 21-19 and 21-19 win in 39 minutes over eighth-seeded Lu Wang and Man Zuo of China.
Koutroumanidou and Tsiartsiani, who reached their third FIVB “final four” and first since September 2005 in Bali where the Greeks claimed a bronze medal, gained a semi-final berth with a 21-19 and 21-19 win in 51 minutes over fourth-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany.
It was the fifth meeting this season between the two teams as the Greeks defeated Goller and Ludwig Wednesday afternoon 21-12, 20-22 and 15-13 for the first-time. Last week in Berlin, the Goller and Ludwig eliminated Koutroumanidou and Tsiartsiani from the German Grand Slam.
“That was a remarkable comeback in the second set against Sara and Laura,” said the 24-year Koutroumanidou as her team trailed the Germans 19-15 in the second set after a long rally produced a “sensational” dig by Ludwig for a point. “That play was disheartening at the time, but we were able to regroup as Maria’s serve against Sara was effective and they made some mistakes to let us back into the match. With each point, we became more and more confident that we could finish the match in two sets. This is our biggest win since the Bali bronze medal match. What a finish for today’s match.”
The seventh of 13 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the 13th annual World Series 13 featured men’s Main Draw play Friday. The women’s competition concludes Saturday with the “final four” matches followed by the men’s semi-final and medal matches Sunday as the winning team in each gender will shared the $32,000 first-place prizes.
The World Series 13 is also the second of eight-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Europe through the middle of September. After next week's $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Switzerland, the fifth and final “major” event will be staged in Klagenfurt for the $600,000 Austrian Grand Slam.
Michael Bradley Photography