USA’s Kerri Walsh and April Ross pulled out their performance of the tournament to beat Germany’s Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) to win gold at the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Fuzhou Open.
Laboureur/Sude knew they would have to bring their best if they wanted to come within reach of the gold. The two teams had played each other twice in the past two weeks, Walsh/Ross winning both times, firstly the bronze medal match at the Xiamen Open and again in Fuzhou Open pool play.
The German pair quickly found themselves 6-2 down in the first, a lead that Walsh/Ross would hold throughout the set. The USA displayed some incredible saves and their ability to pull back into play seemingly impossible balls gave Laboureur/Sude a challenging time.
Germany held their own with Laboureur snatching points rolling the ball over the net out of reach, but on every occasion the USA pair were solid in their comeback.
USA’s Kerri Walsh and April Ross
The second set witnessed some impressive rallies with the score tighter in the early stages, but again Walsh/Ross recovered every ball, Ross successfully smashing from way outside the side line to make 14-12. It was a performance for Laboureur/Sude that any team would be proud of, but Walsh/Ross were just outstanding to greatly deserve the gold, 2-0 (21-15, 21-15).
“It just feels so good to execute and we always want to win and sometimes we get caught up in winning so we don’t do the little things but today it was so fun, April played amazing defence. To win gold medals you need to play great defence and that’s what April did today,” said Walsh.
“We started this tournament really rough, it took us a long time to get into a rhythm and I’m just so proud how we hung together and we battled and we got better every match and this is the best we played I think in two weeks so it was awesome,” said Ross.
Ross/Walsh leave China with a bronze medal from the Xiamen Open and now a gold from Fuzhou. The team has been on the podium at every tournament they have played this year, taking gold at the Rio Grand Slam and silver at the Vitoria Open.
“It means we’re improving, that’s the bottom line, that’s all we want to do every single weekend. It’s so important for us to play these teams because to win a gold medal in Rio you have to get there to the gold medal match and all these teams are going to be in our way. We’re learning, we’re working with them, we’re letting them elevate our play, but it feels really good,” said Walsh.
It is the second year in a row that Laboureur/Sude have taken the silver medal at the Fuzhou Open and the first time the German pair have won an FIVB medal this season.
Chantal Laboureur from Germany
“Of course we are disappointed because it the final Kerri and April played very good. We couldn’t follow the tactics, they put a lot of pressure on us and we made some mistakes, but I think already now we are very happy to reach another final here in Fuzhou,” said Sude.
“It was not so easy today for us to play them, they had some really good savings, they fought for every ball and in the end they made all the balls and had more rallies and it was not easy to break them today. But as Julia said we are happy about our silver,” said Laboureur.
Bronze medal for Heidrich/Zumkehr
The bronze medal was awarded to Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr from Switzerland after fellow Swiss team Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Vergé-Dépré were forced to withdraw due to Vergé-Dépré injury. The last time the two teams played was in the Xiamen Open 2015 when Heidrich/Zumkehr beat Forrer/Vergé-Dépré in the semifinals, but the two Swiss teams will have to wait until they next meet to see the outcome in 2016. A disappointing forfeit for Forrer/Vergé-Dépré, who won gold at the Xiamen Open just one week earlier.
Heidrich/Zumkehr were given a hard time in their morning semifinal when Laboureur/Sude grew in confidence as the match progressed. The Swiss pair could not find their rhythm as Laboureur/Sude began to run away with the match in the second set to win 2-0 (21-17, 21-7).
Switzerland’s Nadine Zumkehr
The bronze for Heidrich/Zumkehr is their first of the year and the first time they have been on the FIVB podium since they won gold at the 2015 Xiamen Open.
“For sure it’s not the nicest way to win a medal with an injury, we would have loved to play the bronze medal game but that’s the situation. I think the bronze medal is still really nice because although we didn’t play a good semifinal today, we played a great tournament and that’s what we take a bronze medal as an award for,” said Zumkehr.
Forrer/Vergé-Dépré had played USA’s Walsh/Ross in a fierce morning semifinal. The Swiss pair came out strongly giving the USA pair a run around in the first set with the help of Forrer’s impressive power. But the USA again used their great adaptability to take control of the second set to win 2-0 (22-20, 21-12).
The FIVB World Tour continues with the Fortaleza Open, Brazil from April 26 - May 1, 2016.
photo Getty Images