|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 25, 2004 - For only the third-time in their 35 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events together, 12th-seeded Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba advanced to a "final four" after delaying the start of a German beach party here Friday by defeating Suzanne Lahme and Danja Müsch.
"We have played against German and had a pretty good idea about gameplan," said Fernandez Grassert after she and Larrea Peraza scored a 21-12 and 21-14 9 in 35 minutes over the ninth-seeded Lahme and Müsch in Friday's first semi-final qualifying match.
"This is a confidence-builder for us, and hopefully, we can use this as a springboard to the Olympics," added Fernandez Grasset, who placed ninth at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with Larrea Peraza after being eliminated by Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan of the United States
Enroute to this week's semi-finals, the Cubans defeated Davis and Johnson Jordan 21-12, 22-24 and 15-9. Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza also defeated teams from Australia and the Netherlands with all three of those matches being in three-sets.
Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza have now advanced to their first semi-final four this season and third "final four" finishes together on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since the start of the Olympic qualifying process in January 2003.
The Cubans posted a second and fourth last season in Bali and Greece, respectively. Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza had lost their previous three matches to the Germans, including an earlier defeat this season in China to Lahme and Müsch.
"We did not prepare any differently for this event than the other tournament," Fernandez Grasset noted. "However, this tournament is special due to the increased prize money and Olympic qualifying points. And, we had great support from our team mates, staff and the Cuban fans here."
The second semi-final qualifying match Friday saw second-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil defeat third-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States 18-21, 21-17 and 15-11 Both Lahme/Müsch and McPeak/Youngs still have a chance to advance to the "final four" with victories in the finals of the elimination bracket Friday afternoon.
In addition to the increased prize money for the event, the Main Draw teams will also receive a "big" boost in placement points. For the Smart Grand Slam, the winning team will receive 600 points with the total decreasing by 60 points per place. The "final four" teams will be playing for the $43,000 first-place prize Saturday afternoon.