Moscow, Russia, June 10, 2010 - It was a day for the top-eight seeded tandems as each Beach Volleyball pair won their respective pools at the US$600,000 Grand Slam presented by SEAT here on Thursday to earn “byes” for the start of 24-team elimination bracket competition at this week’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop on the Poklonnaya Gora (Victory Park) courts.
By finishing either second or third in their pools on Thursday, 16 other teams advanced to the first-round of elimination play on Friday in the second of six “major” events on the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar. The third annual Moscow stop also features men’s play where pool play started on Thursday and will conclude Friday.
The Grand Slam presented by SEAT, which will be part of the country’s Russian Day observance this weekend, will feature 12 women’s matches on Saturday to set the field for Sunday’s semifinal and medal contests. The men’s “final four” matches will be on Monday as the winning pairs in each gender will share the $43,500 first-place prizes.
Pacing Thursday’s group leaders were the past two Moscow women’s champions as the 2009 gold winner Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil captured Pool A while 2008 podium toppers Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China finished first in Pool H. Juliana and Larissa are seeking their fifth Russian gold medal after placing first at the St. Petersburg SWATCH stops in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The Brazilians pairs of Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes (Pool C) and the Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara, Pool G) also won their groups to earn a Friday “bye”. The United States matched Brazil with three pool winners, including Jen Kessy/April Ross (Pool B), Angie Akers/Tyra Turner (Pool D) and Nicole Branagh/Misty May-Treanor (Pool E). The last team to earn a pool title on Thursday was Germany’s Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig (Pool F).
Host Russia advanced two teams to Friday’s elimination rounds as the pairs of Maria Bratkova/Evgenia Ukolova (Pool H) and Ekaterina Khomyakova/Anastasia Vasina (Pool G) finished second in their respective groups with 2-1 match marks each after losing their final matches on Thursday to Xue/Zhang and the Salgado sisters, respectively. Bratkova and Ukolova became the first Russian women’s team to medal on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour with a third-place last November in Phuket, Thailand.
After the Grand Slam presented by SEAT, the 2010 women’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour takes a two-week break before resuming play in Norway for the $600,000 ConocoPhillips Grand Slam in Stavanger. The men will compete in the Czech Republic June 15-20 at Prague.
photos Janos Schmidt