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Beach Volleyball - 17. July 2011.

May-Treanor and Walsh win 2011 Moscow Grand Slam

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh on Saturday won the gold medal in the 2011 FIVB Swatch Moscow Grand Slam. On the Poklonnaya Gora centre court the two-time olympic champions from the USA beat world champions Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca from Brazil in just two sets, 23-21 21-15 in 39 minutes. China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang finished third winning the bronze medal match against Italy’s Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti in three sets (21-17 22-24 15-9).

May-Treanor and Walsh, playing together since 2001, won their 37st World Tour title after 67 FIVB tournaments. It was their first golden medal in Moscow, while opponents Juliana and Larissa already won Russian gold in 2009. The Americans, who earned $43,500 and 800 points in the Russian capital, improved their head-to-head results against the Brazilians to 12-6. Juliana and Larissa take home $29,500 and 720 points for the World Tour ranking.

Juliana and Larissa started out well on a packed centre court. They were three points ahead until May-Treanor/Walsh came back to 19-19 and finished it of on their second set point (23-21). In the second and final set the Brazilian girls never got back into the match trailing by three points mostly. Especially Larissa, who did some great defence in the first set, lacked focus. May-Treanor secured the gold medal with a spike in the back corner at the second match point.

Juliana/Larissa had won the last three meetings with 2005 and 2007 world champions May-Treanor/Wash, including the 2009 World Championship final one month ago in Rome. “We did not want to lose again”, 32-year old Walsh said. “A couple of consecutive losses is a great motivation. Also we had not won a gold medal for some time.” Walsh did not expect that the difference in the second set would be that huge. “I think they were tired, having played almost every final in the last few weeks. Also it was pretty windy and we used that to our advantage.”

May-Treanor/Walsh, their previous golden medal dating back to the Beijing Grand Slam in early June, beat Italy’s Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti in two sets (21-15 21-16) in the semi-final earlier on Saturday. The USA team took revenge for their 2-0 loss last week to the Italians in the semi-finals of the Gstaad Grand Slam, where Cicolari/Menegatti won bronze, only their second medal after silver in Myslowice in May. “This week we did not play so well against Kerri and Misty, we were tired. It was very hot”, Cicolari said. In fact 20-year old Menegatti needed a medical time-out at the end of the second set, suffering from a heatstroke. Both Italian girls, who are playing their second World Tour season together, serve in the Italian Air Force and are leaving for Brazil next week to compete in the military Olympics.

Juliana and Larissa entered the final after beating last year’s golden medallists Xue/Zhang, Brazil now leading the series 18-6. It was a rematch of last week’s final in Gstaad, where the Brazilian world champions won the gold in 21-15 21-13. But in Moscow Juliana and Larissa really had to fight for it, needing a lot of set points in the first set: 26-24 21-14. Xue: “We had more chances to win then last week, but we made too many mistakes in receiving. In the second they gave us more pressure. We are sad to lose our title, but we will be back next year.”

Xue/Zhang recovered well after their loss in the semi-finals and beat Cicolari/Menegatti in the bronze medal match 2-1 (21-17 22-24 15-9). After an easy first set for the Chinese it was a close game in the second, both teams excelling in defence. After 3-3 in the third set, Xue/Zhang took the lead by three points and took it to 15-9 from there.

The 2011 Moscow Grand Slam was the 8th women’s World Tour event hosted in Russia. For the fourth consecutive year the Russian capital hosted a grand slam. The four previous events, all double gender Open, were held in St. Petersburg. The host country won only one medal, silver in 2007 by Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinsky in the men’s tournament. The men’s semi-finals and medal matches are played on Sunday, with Alison/Emanuel (Bra), Dalhausser/Rogers (USA), Bellaguarda/Heuscher (Sui) and Wu/Xu (Chn) in the final four.

Next week the FIVB Swatch Beach Volleyball World Tour travels to Canada for the double gender $380,000 Quebec Open. The following week the circuit returns to Europe for the final two of six grand slams on the 2011 calendar: Stare Jablonski, Poland (July 25-31) and Klagenfurt, Austria (August 1-7).

The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour visits 18 sites in 16 countries over an eight-month period, featuring 16 women’s and 14 men’s events within the African, Asian, European, North American and South American confederations. The 2011 season offers $7.64 million in prize money.
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