Xiamen, China, October 25, 2013 – Top seeded Chinese world champion Xue Chen and her new teenager partner Xia Xinyi collceted their third straight victory in pool A Friday morning to lead eight unbeaten teams into the women’s top 16 of the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Xiamen Grand Slam.
April Ross and Kerri Walsh, who had claimed the gold medal two weeks ago at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam, were hammered by Italy’s Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth 2-0 in their last pool E match, but they still advanced to the 24-team knockout stage as the second finishers from the pool.
Xue and 16-year-old World Tour debutant Xia beat Argentina’s Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug 2-0 (21-16, 21-13) in 39 minutes to finish atop of pool A with a 3-0 win-loss record and earn a bye in the first round of the knockout stage which was set to start Saturday morning.
“Xia is playing in the World Tour for the first time and this is our first World Tour event, I did not expect to win three matches in a row,” said Xue, who had captured the title of the World Championships with her old partner Zhang Xi in July. “She has been doing a great job and I am very satisfied with our cooperation. As a young player in her age, her performance was quite surprising to me.”
“I think we have been playing better and better as a team in the last three matches,” said Xia. “As a newcomer, I have a lot to learn and improve. I need more experience and training to be a better beach volleyball player.”
Following two easy wins on Thursday, the new combination of April Ross and Kerri Walsh received a blow Friday morning as they lost to Menegatti/Orsi Toth in straight sets 21-16 and 21-18. In the afternoon, April/Walsh came back to beat Gallay/Klug 2-1 (21-11, 16-21, 17-15) in an elimination round match to stay in the title contention.
Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova of Czech Republic pulled off another upset in the women’s pool play by taming Brazil’s seventh seeds Agatha Bed narczuk/Maria Antonelli 2-0 (21-17, 24-22). Having squandered a three-point lead in the second set, the 10th seeded Slukova/Kolocova finally converted on their fourth match point thanks to a solid block by Slukova.
“Agatha and Maria are a really strong team, so against a strong team like this it's always difficult to keep the lead as they can come back in the middle of the set with some unbelievable play, and they can just take the lead away from you,” said Slukova. “But I am really proud of us because we kept going and kept pushing and at the end we still won the second set. I think it's the strongest play by us.”
The girls from Czech Republic now had a 2-0 record against Agatha/Antonelli this season. “World Tour is always tough tournament and we can't expect to win any game. But we played them already once this year, in Berlin, and we won and it was a tough game. So we knew that if we play well we can beat them. But if we struggle with service, reception, everything, we can easily lose 2-0.”
Fourth seeds Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany, second seeds Taiana Lima/Talita Da Rocha Antunes, third seeds Maria Clara Salgado Rufino, both from Brazil, sixth seeds Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany, eighth seeds Yue Yuan/Ma Yuanyuan from China joined Xue/Xia, Menegatti/Orsi Toth and Slukova/Kolocova in the women’s top 16 after winning respective pools with unbeaten records.
Ludwig/Walkenhorst, runners-up to April/Walsh at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam, rallied past Emily Day/Summer Ross of the United States 18-21, 21-16 and 15-4 in the last round pool D match.
“It’s really cool. We don't have to play one more match today. It’s already been a long season and it's always cool to go out of the pool as first. I feel good and I am satisfied with the three good matches. But tomorrow is a new day and new games and we have to fight again,” said Ludwig.
Ludwig was quite satisfied with her overall performance over the season. “In the beginning it was a slow start, but on and on we always make top 10, top five and even two finals. I think right now we're the seventh in the world ranking, and now I have a new partner. Everything is pretty new and we did a pretty good job this season,” she added.
The women’s elimination round will start on Saturday morning with the semifinal and final matches scheduled for Sunday. The double gender Xiamen Grand Slam is the last of a record 10 Grand Slam events on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar.
China has hosted more than 23 women’s and 14 men’s tournaments on the FIVB World Tour, but this is the first visit for an FIVB international beach volleyball event in the city of Xiamen. The event in Xiamen is one of three FIVB international beach volleyball events being held in China this year. The first was the 2013 FIVB Open tournament held in Fuzhou on April 23 to 28, followed by the Shanghai Grand Slam, which took place from April 30 to May 5, 2013.
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