Moscow, Russia, June 1, 2017 - Led by reigning Olympic champions Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and 14-time FIVB World Tour gold medal winners Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil, Beach Volleyball pairs from the European and South American countries “stood-out” here Thursday morning under overcast skies during the opening women’s Main Draw rounds at this week’s US$150,000 international stop in the Russian capital.
Being played alongside the men’s Main Draw, the Moscow elimination rounds will be contested Friday and Saturday to set the lineup for Sunday's medal matches. The winning duos in each gender’s competition will share the $10,000 first-place prizes and the FIVB World Tour gold medal.
With the 16 women’s matches being playing in the first-round of the “modified” pool play schedule, Brazilian and German pairs combined to win eight times led by opening wins by Ludwig/Walkenhorst and Talita/Larissa over pairs from the Czech Republic and host Russia, respectively.
Seeded second in the competition, Ludwig and Walkenhorst struggled in the first set against 31st-seeded qualifiers Magdalena Dostalova/Karolina Rehackova before posting a 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-9) win in 42 minutes over the Czech Republic pair.
With the win, the Germans will play 15th-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil Thursday afternoon with the victorious team earning a “bye” for the first-round of elimination bracket play that starts Friday. Antonelli and Carolina advanced to the finals of Pool B with a 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-13) win in 50 minutes over 18th-seeded Taru Lahti/Riikka Lehtonen of Finland.
Talita and Larissa, who teamed to win the 2015 Moscow stop before finishing second last year, opened with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-15) win in 27 minutes over 32nd-seeded Svetlana Kholomina/Olga Motrich of Russia. The Brazilians will be challenged by 17th-seeded Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes for the Pool A title and elimination “bye”.
Two-time American collegiate champions and gold medal winners at the 2016 World University Games in Pärnu, Estonia, Claes and Hughes advanced to an afternoon meeting with Talita and Larissa by defeating Valentyna Davidova/Ievgeniia Shchypkova of the Ukraine 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) in 30 minutes. Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the young Americans posted a win over Ludwig and Walkenhorst at the SWATCH Major Series stop in Klagenfurt, Austria.
Kelly Claes (right) hits against Ievgeniia Shchypkova (center) of the Ukraine as American partner Sara Hughes follows the action.
Germans also won a pair of Pool C matches (third-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude and 19th-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider) along with Pool D (20th-seeded qualifiers) Karla Borger/Margareta Kozuch). Joining Talita/Larissa and Antonelli/Carolina as group victors Thursday morning were fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/ Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa (Pool D) and fifth-seeded Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas (Pool E).
While the two German pairs play for the Pool C title, Borger and Kozuch challenge Agatha and Duda for the Pool D crown. Fernanda and Barbara will meet 12th-seeded Australian Olympians Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy for the Pool E “bye”. Agatha and Barbara teamed to win the 2015 FIVB world championships in The Netherlands and the silver medal at the Rio Olympics where the Brazilians lost to Ludwig and Walkenhorst in the Copacabana finale.
Other successful pairs meeting in group deciding matches are sixth-seeded Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic meeting 22nd-seeded Kristina May/Taylor Pischke of Canada (Pool F), seventh-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan of Canada playing 10th-seeded Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli of Switzerland (Pool G) and an All-American Pool H meeting between 25th-seeded qualifiers Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar ninth-seeded Lauren Fendrick/April Ross.