Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal, September 16, 2006 - The anticipated "showdown" at the US$200,000 Porto Santo Line/TMN Open between the top two women’s teams on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour did not materialize here Saturday afternoon as Brazil's Renata Ribeiro and Talita Antunes spoiled China's chance for a third-straight international Beach Volleyball gold medal.
In the process of scoring a 21-17 and 23-21 win over second-seeded Tian Jia and Wang Jie of China in a 35-minute semi-final match, the fifth-seeded Renata and Talita earned another chance to snap an eight-match losing streak against their Brazilian rivals Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca.
The top-seeded Juliana and Larissa, who advanced to the 23rd SWATCH-FIVB World Tour title match in 36 starts since the 2004 season, have won 12 of 13 international matches against their Brazilian rivals. Sunday's finale will also be the fourth-time the two teams have played each other for a SWATCH gold medal with Juliana and Larissa winning last season in Russia and Canada before Renata and Talita scored a September upset in Greece.
"Obviously, we are excited about this win," said the 24-year old Renata, "but more importantly, it gives us another chance to defeat Juliana and Larissa. They have had our number on the SWATCH tour. Hopefully, we can validate our two wins today with another victory tomorrow."
Renata and Talita, who dropped a 21-19, 19-21 and 15-12 decision to Juliana and Larissa Friday evening in the quarter-finals, opened play Saturday with a 26-24 and 21-13 victory over third-seeded Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil.
This mid-September weekend also has "special memories' for the Renata/Talita partnership as the Brazilians captured their second SWATCH title 364 days ago in Indonesia when they defeated Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede in another All-Brazilian gold medal match.
With five-straight Porto Santo Line/TMN Open wins, Juliana and Larissa clinched their second-straight SWATCH point's championship with a current total of 6,880 as compared to 5,640 for Tian Jia and Wang Jie. Renata and Talita (4,120 points) are currently fifth behind teams from China (Xue Chen/Zhang Xi, 4,700) and Brazil (Adriana/Shelda, 4,220).
Juliana and Larissa advanced to the Porto Santo Line/TMN Open finale with a 21-13 and 21-19 semi-final victory in 39 minutes over 22nd-seeded Helke Claasen and Antje Roder of Germany, who were competing in their first SWATCH-FIVB World Tour "final four" in 24 starts.
"Obviously, we pull for any Brazilian team to win when we are not playing them," said the 23-year Juliana when asked about their next opponent following their semi-final win to secure their 16-straight SWATCH medal. "Obviously, we would like to reverse the score from our last meeting with the Chinese."
Tian Jia and Wang Jie scored their first-ever win over Juliana and Larissa six week ago in the finals of the Klagenfurt Grand Slam stop in Austria. It was the first to two-straight titles for the Chinese, who defeated Xue Chen and Zhang Xi earlier this month in Warsaw, Poland.
Sunday's medal matches will be played at the Estadio de Desportos do Porto Santo - Penedo do Sono near the shelter port. The winning team in the 12th of 15 stops on the 2006 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour will share 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).