Alexandra Shiryaeva and Natalya Uryadova gave host Russia a chance for their first-ever women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour medal here Wednesday with a pair of Beach Volleyball wins during the opening Main Draw rounds of the US$400,000 St. Petersburg Open. After defeating teams from Japan and Norway, the ninth-seeded Shiryaeva and Uryadova challenge top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil in an opening winner’s bracket match Thursday in the third annual St. Petersburg Open where very cool (11°C) and damp weather conditions confronted the players at the Peter-And-Paul Fortress on the Neva River. It will be the third meeting between the two teams with the Brazilians captured a 2005 match in Austria and a last September in Vitoria, Brazil. Both match scores were 21-13 and 21-16 with the 2006 match being in the second-round of the winner’s bracket.
“It is good to get a pair of opening wins,” said the 24-year old Shiryaeva, who won a 2003 SWATCH- FIVB U21 World Championships gold medal with Anna Morozova in Saint Quay Portrieux, France. “It is always a challenge to play a team from Brazil. Juliana and Larissa are very competitive and we’ll have to be at our very best Thursday to have an opportunity to win.” Shiryaeva and Uryadova’s second win Wednesday avenged a three-set setback to eighth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen in the bronze medal match last Saturday in the European championships in Spain. The Norwegians defeated Shiryaeva and Uryadova 18-21, 22-20 and 15-13 in 71 minutes in Valencia with the Russians rebounding with a 21-16 and 21-16 win Wednesday over Hakedal and Torlen.
Juliana and Larissa, who need to advance to the finals this week to gain the top spot in the SWATCH- FIVB World Tour rankings, scored wins over teams from Russia and Finland Wednesday to improve their season match mark to 63-11 with four gold medal finishes in Poland, Portugal, Norway and Finland.
The Brazil versus Russia winner will advance to a semi-final qualifying match against fourth-seeded Jen Boss/April Ross of the United States or fifth-seeded Vasso Karadassiou/Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece. Boss and Ross captured a SWATCH stop earlier this season in Norway while Karadassiou and Arvaniti captured last week’s European title. The lower half of the St. Petersburg Open winner’s bracket features teams from Brazil and the United States as both countries will face each other in an opening match Thursday.
The Brazilian matches features second-seeded Renata Ribeiro/Talita Antunes and seventh-seeded Ana Paula Connelly/Adriana Behar. The All-American affair will have third-seeded Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs playing sixth-seeded Rachel Wacholder/Tyra Turner. Sixteen other teams remain in the St. Petersburg Open with one defeat each. The 12th of 13 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the women’s St. Petersburg Open concludes Saturday with the men’s medal matches set for Sunday.
The gold medal teams will share the $32,000 first-place prizes. The final 2007 double gender event will be held in Brazil at the end of September in Fortaleza. The men end their European travels next week in Mazury region of Poland at Stare Jablonki. The 2007 campaign ends with single gender stops during the first week of November in Bali (men) and Thailand (women).