Seeded 1-2 in this week’s Moscow stop on the FIVB World Tour, the two teams have split international gold medal matches the past two seasons with Ludwig and Walkenhorst winning the other four meetings in the series to hold a 5-1 edge in the confrontations between the two teams.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst have won the last three matches between the two teams, including a 2-0 (21-18, 21-12) semi-final victory at the Rio Olympics Games. Sandwiching the Copacabana win was a German gold Medal win last June in Poland and a September semi-final victory at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto, Canada.
With cool and damp conditions throughout Thursday’s 48-match schedule at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre, the top-seeded Talita and Larissa had an easier day in their Pool A quad on the center court with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-15) win in 27 minutes over 32nd-seeded Svetlana Kholomina/Olga Motrich of Russia and a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) victory in 32 minutes over 17th-seeded Kelly Claes/Sara Hughes of the United States.
Playing in only their second FIVB event since Ludwig’s mid-December right shoulder surgery, the second-seeded Germans posted two come-from-behind Pool B wins over 31st-seeded qualifiers Magdalena Dostalova/Karolina Rehackova of the Czech Republic 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-9) in 42 minutes and 15th-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-13) in 46 minutes.
Laura Ludwig of Germany
Both Talita/Larissa and Ludwig/Walkenhorst partnerships have Moscow medals to their credit. The Germans finished second in the 2013 Moscow stop after dropping the finale to the Salgado sisters (Maria Clara and Carolina) sisters of Brazil. Talita, who has played in the last three women’s gold medal matches in Moscow, and Larissa won the 2015 FIVB stop in the Russian capital and placed second last year to Americans April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Being played alongside the men’s Main Draw, six other women’s pairs joined Talita/Larissa and Ludwig/Walkenhorst in winning their pools Thursday and advancing with a “bye” to the second-round of elimination. The 24-team elimination rounds start Friday afternoon and continue through 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.
Other group victors were 19th-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider of Germany (Pool C), fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil (Pool D), 12th-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia (Pool E), sixth-seeded Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic (Pool F), seventh-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan of Canada and ninth-seeded Lauren Fendrick/April Ross of the United States.
Three of the “other” pool winners netted podium spots two weeks ago in Brazil at the Rio Open when Talita/Larissa and Ludwig/Walkenhorst were placing fifth. Agatha and Duda defeated Humana-Paredes and Pavan for the Rio gold medal with Hermannova and Slukova defeating Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixas for the bronze medal.
Bawden /and Clancy, who placed fifth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and ninth at the 2017 Rio Open, defeated Fernanda and Barbara Seixas 2-1 (17-21, 25-23, 15-10) for their second Pool E win Thursday in 52 minutes. In the Rio Open, the Australians were eliminated by Talita and Larissa in two sets.
Louise Bawden (left) and Taliqua Clancy of Australia
Following the Moscow stop, the FIVB World Tour takes a week off before resuming play June 15-18 for a “three-star” $150,000 event in The Netherlands at The Hague. Highlighting the 2017 international calendar for men and women Beach Volleyball players will be the $1-million FIVB World Championships July 28 through August 6 in Vienna, Austria and the $800,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals August 23-27 in Hamburg, Germany. Overall, there are 15 men’s and 19 women’s events on the $5.335-million FIVB World Tour schedule.