|April Ross (second from left) and Jen Kessy (second from the right) of the United States with SWATCH reps Nadia Waelti (left) and Veronique Doucet|
Marseille, France, July 26, 2009 - After finishing fifth and ninth the past two weeks in SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops in Switzerland and Russia, Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross finally validated their world championship title here Sunday by defeating Vassiliki Arvaniti and Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece for the US$600,000 World Series 13 Grand Chelem gold medal.
With the World Series 13 Grand Chelem featuring a single-elimination format at a SWATCH FIVB World Tour for the first-time since 2001, the third-seeded Kessy and Ross scored a 21-16 and 21-17 win in 42 minutes over the 20th-seeded Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani to share the $43,000 first-place prize. By winning their first five matches in Marseille, the Greeks split $28,000 for second-place.
While Kessy and Ross had posted one upset win in their run to the gold medal in their first-ever appearance in Marseille on the Plages Gaston Defferre courts, Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani’s road to the finals featured seed-break-through victories over the 13th-, fourth-, fifth- and eighth-seeded Beach Volleyball pairs from Austria, the United States, Brazil and Germany, respectively.
“From this tournament on, the Greeks will be a tough pair to beat for any team on this tour,” said the 31-year old Kessy, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the World Series 13 Grand Chelem. “We have played them three times now, so we feel fortunate to defeat them each time. They are getting better with every match and their confidence with each other is growing with each tournament.”
Kessy and Ross, who advanced to their seventh SWATCH FIVB World Tour final in their last nine international starts, defeated Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani in an elimination match at the world championships three weeks ago in Norway before scoring a pool play victory a week later in the Swiss Grand Slam in Gstaad.
In becoming the sixth American team to win a Marseille gold medal, Kessy and Ross also secured their fifth SWATCH FIVB World Tour title together in 26 starts together while competing in their ninth international finale. Enroute to Sunday’s match, Kessy and Ross scored a 21-16 and 21-13 win in 38 minutes over Talita Antunes and Maria Antonelli of Brazil. At the end of May, the Brazilians defeated Kessy and Ross twice in Korea to win the FIVB stop in Seoul.
Eighth-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany, who lost a 21-12 and 21-17 semi-final decision in 32 minutes to Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani Saturday afternoon, captured the World Series 13 Grand Chelem bronze medal with a 21-16 and 23-21 win in 46 minutes over Talita and Antonelli.
With the win, Goller and Ludwig shared the $21,000 third-place prize while claiming a SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam medal for the second-straight week. The Germans occupied the third spot on the Russian podium last week in Moscow.
By not winning a medal Sunday, Brazil failed to have a team on the Marseille podium for only the second-time in 12 events in the Mediterranean port city as Talita won the 2007 event with Renata Ribeiro while Antonelli was second to Germany’s Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau with Vanilda Leão in 2008. Despite not winning their last two matches this week, Talita and Antonelli shared $16,600 for their fourth-place finish.
Following the World Series 13 Grand Chelem men’s and women’s medal matches Sunday, the SWATCH FIVB World Tour’s final Grand Slam stop in 2009 will be played in Austria where the women’s competition begins Monday in Klagenfurt followed by the men’s first matches Tuesday. The men’s Marseille finale featured fourth-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the United States against seventh-seeded Adrian Gavira Collado and Pablo Herrera of Spain.
photo Getty Images