Mangaung, South Africa, December 13, 2014 – A gold medal will make a nice Christmas present, Barbora Hermannova said after she and Martina Bonnerova reached the final of the FIVB World Tour Beach Volleyball Mangaung Open on Saturday.
The Czech pair defeated top seeded Americans Lane Carico and Kimberly Dicello 2-1 (17-21, 25-23, 15-11) and will meet Takemi Nishibori and Sayaka Mizoe in the final. The Japanese, who like the Czechs reached the final four for the first time, upset experienced Russian pair Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva 2-1 (19-21, 21-18, 16-14) in the other semifinal.
“It’s super duper”, Hermannova said after the match. “We tried our best and we almost died because of the heat, but it is such a nice Christmas present”, Hermannova said. “I just tried to focus on breathing and save energy”, Bonnerova added.
The Czech girls, who are playing their 37th World Tour event, lost the first set, but changed tactics and turned the game around. “Our tactic was to serve on the blond one (Dicello)”, Bonnerova said. “But from the start we could not defend her, so we tried the other one. We just tried to serve hard, Barbora had some aces in this match.”
Bonnerova and Hermannova tried to pick up the serve in the middle and step around. “When we could receive in the middle we would go behind to hit. It worked in this match, it was a great idea of Martina”, Hermannova said.
The Czechs took a big 6 point lead in the second set, but the Americans fought back to level at 18-18 and reached their first match point at 20-19.
What followed were some excellent rallies, with both Carico and Bonnerova digging the most amazing balls off the sand. The Czech pair warded off four American match points in a row before they closed the set on their first set point, to take the game into a tiebreak.
That mental victory had given them such a boost that Bonnerova and Hermannova just kept on going in the third and with the support of the crowd reached their first match point at 14-9. It took them two more before Bonnerova could claim a spot in the final with a shot down the line.
“This is the last tournament of the season”, Hermannova said. “And we are so happy with this.” The girls were delighted with the home crowd support. “We love it”, Hermannova said. “We practiced in Cape Town. And we love it there. Our friends from Cape Town cheered for us and we heard them.”
Japanese comeback queens do it again
Out of the four semifinalists only Evgenia Ukolova and Maria Prokopeva had been in a final four before. Together they won bronze in Anapa this year, but for Ukolova this was even her 8th final four with two gold, one silver and three bronzes with former partner Ekaterina Khomyakova. Prokopeva has won three bronzes in four final fours.
But that did not mean much to Japan’s Take and Mizoe, who lost to the Russians in Xiamen, but beat the Russians this year in Prague. Coming back from one set down, the Japanese ended up on top. It is the first time Japan has reached the final of a World Tour event since Yukiki Takahashi and Mika Teru Saika won silver in Osaka in 2000.
Just like yesterday in their quarterfinal against Greece the come back queens turned the match around with a change of tactics and mindset. “It was the same like yesterday, get our minds to it, change our service and defence system and calm down”, Take said. “Focus, focus and defence”, Mizoe added.
Even when they got a matchpoint against them in the tiebreak the Japanese did not get distracted. “We just had to trust each other”, Mizoe said. Take leveled with a big hit down the line and next Mizoe earned them their first match point with a big block.
The Russians took a time out, but it was no use. With another great spike to the back of the court Take claimed the semifinal win.
Tomorrow will be their final test, Mizoe said. “But we mostly want to enjoy this.”