Modena, Italy, May 12, 2006 - Don’t start thinking that the end is near for the string of SWATCH-FIVB World Tour successes for the legendary Brazilian women’s Beach Volleyball team of Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede.
For a moment here Friday at the US$200,000 Play Station Portable Italian Open, it appeared that Adriana and Shelda would see their streak of 94-straight top nine finishes on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour end as the Brazilians dropped a 21-15 decision to 27th-seeded Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China.
However, the streak still has a chance to survive as Adriana and Shelda rallied to win the next sets 21-18 and 15-11 to advance to their second of a possible three matches Friday against 14th-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway, who defeated 13th-seeded Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova from the Czech Republic.
While the Brazilians are playing in their 100th SWATCH event, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi are making their international debut together. Chen Xue (6-3, 191cm) is only 17 years old and Xi Zhang (6-0, 183cm) is 21.
“Each year, it becomes harder and harder for us to compete athletically on this tour,” said the 37-year Adriana. “The key right now is not to get ourselves thinking that we have to play hard on every serve. Most of our opponents are now bigger and stronger. We can not out-muscle anyone. We must rely on our experience and skills a lot more.”
The last-time the winningest team in SWATCH history failed to win at least one elimination match in an international events was June 21, 1996 in Hermosa Calif., when Adriana and Shelda were playing in their fifth FIVB-sponsored event as the pair placed 25th.
It was at that event that Adriana learned of her father’s (Israel) death. “We were already in Hermosa. Since I could not change my airline ticket to return home, I decided to play in his honor,” Adriana said. “It was our worst finish on the worst weekend of my life. I honored by father and Shelda by competing, but I was not ready to play mentally.”
Adriana and Shelda, who is 33 years old, still must win one more match to continue their streak of top nine finishes as the Brazilians will play either the 24th-seeded Schwaiger sisters (Doris and Stefanie) of Austria or 31st-seeded Ying Zhang and Man Zuo of China. All four players are 23 or younger.
The Play Station Portable Italian Open, which is being played at three sites in Modena, Carpi Sassulo. Competition concludes Sunday when the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize. Round two on the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour will be staged May 24-28 in Shanghai where the men open their international season.