Paris, France, June 21, 2007 - Defending Henkel Grand Chelem women’s champions Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca won their ninth-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour match on the Champs de Mars sand courts behind the Eiffel Tower here Thursday morning, but the young Brazilians failed to protect their No. 1-seed after being extended to three sets in their final pool play match against a team from China.
With wins in 14 of their 15 matches on the Champs de Mars, Juliana and Larrisa were edged by 2005 Henkel Grand Chelem gold medal winners Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States for the top position in the 24-team SWATCH single-elimination bracket that begins later Thursday in the US$600,000 FIVB event that is being held within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars.
After capturing their first two matches in straight sets, Juliana and Larissa were extended to a third and deciding set Thursday morning by 16th-seeded Lu Wang and Man Zuo of China with the Brazilians winning 21-18, 17-21 and 15-12 to finish with a 1.191 points ratio (points scored divided by points allowed).
The second-seeded May-Treanor and Walsh, who won a three-setter during the opening day of pool play competition Wednesday, scored a 21-15 and 21-19 win over 15th-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway in their final group match Thursday morning.
With both of the top-ranked teams tied with 3-0 match records and 6.000 set ratios (six of seven sets won), the points ratios were used to decide the seed order for the elimination bracket with the Americans finishing at 1.232 as the May-Treanor and Walsh scored one additional point and allowed three less points that the Brazilians. A straight-set win Thursday or 15-8 in the deciding set against the Chinese would have allowed Juliana and Larissa to protect their top Henkel Grand Chelem seeding.
Both teams, who have played in the first two Henkel Grand Chelem gold medals matches with Juliana and Larissa winning 20-22, 15-21 and 15-13 in the 66-minute finale last July, will have a first-round “bye” in the first elimination matches Thursday afternoon along with six others teams from Austria, China, Germany and the United States.
Other pool winners Thursday were China’s third-seeded Jia Tian/Jie Wang (Pool C) and sixth-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China (Pool F), eighth-seeded Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs (Pool H) and 26th-seeded Tyra Turner/Racher Wacholder (Pool G) of the United States (Pool H), 12th-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler/Hella Jurich of Germany (Pool E) and 29th-seeded Sara Montagnolli/Sabine Swoboda of Austria (Pool D).
The Pool D, E and G competitions produced the week’s “biggest” surprises as the top-seeded tandems in each group were defeated by lower-seeded teams. Despite defeating Montagnolli and Swoboda in their first match Wednesday, third-seeded Talita Antunnes and Renata Ribeiro of Brazil were eliminated after losing to teams from Cuba and Germany. The Austrians rebounded with upset wins over the Germans and Austrians.
The Henkel Grand Chelem also featured men’s pool play matches Thursday in the first of five “major SWATCH events this season. The Henkel Grand Chelem runs through Sunday when the winning teams shared the $43,500 first-place prizes.
The Henkel Grand Chelem will also help finalize the entry list for the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships to be played July 24-29 in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad. The $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, the second-most prestigious Beach Volleyball event on the planet behind the Olympics, will feature 48-team Main Draws for both men and women.