China's Chen Xue at the SWATCH net against Cuba
SHANGHAI, CHINA, May 1, 2008 - With three of their compatriots losing matches here Thursday, Chen Xue and Xi Zhang will lead China’s Beach Volleyball efforts into Friday’s schedule seeking to regain a spot on the China Shanghai Jinshan Open podium where they were awarded the gold medal in 2006.
Seeded third in the 32-team women’s Main Draw of the second of 16 double gender events on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar, Xue and Zhang scored wins over teams from the Ukraine and Cuba to advance to a Friday match in the third-round of the winner’s bracket against sixth-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia.
“It not that important to regain this title,” said the 23-year old Zhang. “It is more important to improve and gain the needed confidence to play each match to the best of our ability. The big difference this year as compared to 2006 when we won the gold medal here is our experience.”
Xue, who was 17 when she won the 2006 China Shanghai Jinshan Open gold medal to become the youngest player ever to claim a SWATCH FIVB World Tour title, and Zhang have never lost to Barnett and Cook in three previous meetings, including a three-set elimination win on the Jinshan Beach courts last year.
Barnett and Cook, who defeated teams from Canada and Norway Thursday, have also a SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal to their credit after winning the Korean stop last year in Seoul. Cook, who is currently bidding for her fourth Olympic trip, and Barnett are currently rank ninth on the Beijing qualifying list with Xue and Zhang fourth.
Three other teams from the host country remain in the competition, including defending China Shanghai Jinshan Open champions Jia Tian and Jie Wang. The second-seeded Tian and Wang were upset in the first round Thursday by 31st-seeded Mayra Garcia and Bibiana Candelas of Mexico before rebounding with a 21-19 and 21-17 win over 15th-seeded Simone Kuhn and Lea Schwer of Switzerland. Also remaining in the double-elimination competition for China are 10th-seeded Lu Wang/Man Zuo and 32nd-seeded Yuan Yue/Wenwen Zhang.
All four teams from Brazil remain in the competition, including the undefeated tandems to top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca, fourth-seeded Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro and fifth-seeded Shelda Bede/Ana Paula Connelly, who sent compatriots Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado into the elimination bracket.
With the top-half of the winner’s bracket featuring the South Americans, Juliana and Larissa play ninth-seeded Vasso Karadassiou and Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece in their opening match Friday while Talita and Renata meet Shelda and Ana Paula. The winners from those two matches face each other Friday afternoon for Saturday’s first semi-final berth.
The Xue/Zhang and Barnett/Cook victors will play either seventh-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler/Hella Jurich of Germany or Garcia and Candelas for the second "final four" berth in one of Friday’s final matches in the US$350,000 China Shanghai Jinshan Open.
Six men’s elimination matches are scheduled for Friday with the medal matches Saturday. Twenty-two (22) women’s matches will be played Friday followed by two elimination rounds and the semi-finals Saturday. The women’s medal matches are Sunday as the China Shanghai Jinshan Open gold medal teams split the $28,000 first-place prizes.