Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal, September 16, 2006 - Teams for Brazil and Germany won matches in the final elimination round of the $200,000 Porto Santo Line/TMN Open elimination bracket here Saturday to gain "final four" berths in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
While 22nd-seeded Helke Claasen and Antje Roder of Germany became only the sixth team from their country to qualify for the semi-finals in the 15-year history of the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Brazil's Renata Ribeiro and Talita Antunes were earning their eighth trip to an international "final four" in 28 starts together.
With their 21-15, 19-21 and 15-13 win in 49 minutes over eighth-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich, Claasen and Roder avenged a three-set defeat earlier this month to their German rivals in an elimination match at their country’s national championships.
"Obviously, this win today makes up for our disappointment at our national finals when we were defeated in a semi-final-qualifying match by Rieke and Hella," said the 29-year old Claasen. "Also, there is not a lot of pressure on us since no one expected us to be in the semi-finals. Our play this week has really helped our confidence."
After failing to qualify for a SWATCH Main Draw in their first five events this season with four country quota eliminations, Claasen and Roder have improved their performance in their last five international starts with this week’s finish being their best-ever FIVB placement together.
Claasen felt the key to her team’s win over Brink-Abeler and Jurich "was knowing" their opponent. "I think it is easier to play a team from your country, especially this late in the season, since you know their game," Claasen added. "We learned a lot from our defeat to them earlier this month. In addition, it felt good to know that the winner of our match would represent Germany in the semi-finals."
Four of Claasen and Roder's five matches this week have been three-setters with their only two-set match being a 21-14 and 21-18 upset victory over third-seeded Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil. It was the Germans first win in seven meetings against a team from Brazil since Claasen and Roder former their partnership at the start of the 2005 season.
Claasen and Roder will play top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil in Saturday's first semi-final match. The fifth-seeded Renata and Talita advanced to the "final four" with a 26-24 and 21-13 win over Leila and Ana Paula and challenge second-seeded Tian Jia and Wang Jie of China. While the Germans will be playing Juliana and Larissa for the first-time, Renata and Talita have won three of their four SWATCH meetings with the Chinese.
All of Saturday's matches are being played at the Estadio de Desportos do Porto Santo - Penedo do Sono near the shelter port. The 12th of 15 stops on the 2006 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour concludes Sunday with the medal matches as the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize.
The Porto Santo Line/TMN Open is the 10th and final women's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event in Europe this season. The 2006 campaign concludes with stops in Brazil (September 26-30 at Vitoria), Mexico (October 25-29 at Acapulco) and Thailand (November 1-5 at Phuket).