Sentosa, Singapore, May 23, 2007 - For the first-time in the history of the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, a team from the Philippines will be competing in an international Beach Volleyball Main Draw as Heidi Ilustre and Diane Pascua won three matches here Wednesday to qualify for the “money” rounds in the US$200,000 Singapore Open.
The inaugural Singapore Open is the second qualifying event for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour is at the start of its 16th-season of international competition. The Singapore Open concludes Sunday when the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize.
Seeded 35th in the 38-team Qualification Tournament, Ilustre and Pascua posted wins over teams from Thailand, China and Australia to earn one of eight Main Draw spots awarded Wednesday on Siloso Beach for the second of 18 women’s stops on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar.
The Singapore Open is only the second SWATCH stop where a women’s team from the Philippines has competed in a FIVB event as Ilustre placed 41th in a 2003 international Beach Volleyball tournament in Japan with Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson. The only other FIVB appearance by a team from the Philippines was in 1991 at a men’s stop in Sydney where Elvis Pabilonia and O Patricio placed 17th.
All three of Ilustre and Pascua’s qualifying wins Wednesday were over higher-seeded teams as the Filipino pair upset 30th-seeded Julaluk Radarong and Manerat Udomchavee of Thailand (21-15 and 21-13), third-seeded Linjun Ji and Ying Zhang of China (21-15 and 21-13) and 14th-seeded Heike Jensen and Summer Lochowicz of Australia (16-21, 21-17 and 15-8).
Linjun Ji and Ying Zhang entered the Singapore Open after placing 13th in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opening event in Shanghai three weeks ago. The Chinese tandem had also placed second in a SWATCH stop last season in Athens where Linjun Ji and Ying Zhang were defeated in the finals by reigning Olympic and World champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States.
"This is our first outing at the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event together,” said the 30-year old Pascua. “We basically played it game by game. Our mentality was 'it's never over till it's over.' And once we won our first game, we gained good momentum.”
If not for Ilustre and Pascua’s advancement to the Singapore Open Main Draw, Wednesday’s other surprising development was the elimination of second-seeded Lu Wang and Man Zuo as the Chinese pair dropped a 16-21, 21-17 and 15-13 decision to 15th-seeded Dana Cooke and Annie Martin of Canada in the final Qualification Tournament match. Lu Wang and Man Zuo had placed ninth the season’s first FIVB event.
Cooke is playing in only her second SWATCH stop with Martin, who placed fifth at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with Guylaine Dumont. In the Shanghai opener, Cooke and Martin lost their only match to place 41st. Wednesday, the Canadians won both of their qualifying matches to advance to their first Man Draw.
Canada advanced a second tandem to the 32-team Singapore Open Main Draw as fifth-seded Marie-Andree Lessard and Sarah Maxwell defeated teams from Hungary and Spain in straight sets to gain a spot in Thursday’s opening “money” rounds. Lessard and Maxwell were upset in their only match in the Shanghai opener by a team from Mexico.
Led by top-seeded Efthalia Koutroumanidou and Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece, only four of the top-eight seeded teams in the qualifier advanced to the Singapore Open Main Draw. Koutroumanidou and Tsiartsiani, who placed 17th in Shanghai after being eliminated by Linjun Ji and Ying Zhang, posted qualifying wins Wednesday over teams from Malaysia and Sweden to gain Greece’s second Main Draw berth behind Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou.
Arvaniti and Karadassiou enter the Singapore Open after winning last week’s European Championship Tour stop in Austria where the Greeks defeated Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway in the finals. Hakedal and Torlen, the top-ranked European team on the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, finished second in Shanghai three weeks ago after losing to Jie Wang and Jia Tian in the finals.
Other teams advancing to Singapore Open Main Draw were sixth-seeded Daniela Gioria/Lucilla Perrotta of Italy, seventh-seeded Chiaki Kusuhara/Mika Teru Saiki of Japan, ninth-seeded Tatiana Barerra/Virginie Kadjo of France and 13th-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany.
For the second-straight SWATCH event, Holtwick and Semmler eliminated Shaylyn Bede and Agatha Bednarczuk in the qualifier as the Germans posted an opening 24-22 and 21-18 victory Wednesday over 20th-seeded Brazilians. Holtwick and Semmler gained a spot in the Main Draw by defeating fourth-seeded Sanne Keizer and Marrit Leenstra of the Netherlands 21-15, 19-21 and 15-13. The Germans had also defeated Keizer and Leenstra three weeks ago in a Main Draw match in Shangahi (21-14, 17-21 and 15-11).