|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 25, 2004 - Four teams from four different countries make up the "final four" field for the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam as tandems from Germany and the United States won the final elimination matches here Friday.
Ninth-seeded Suzanne Lahme and Danja Müsch of Germany challenge top-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil in Saturday's first semi-final at 9:50 a.m. followed by 12th-seeded Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba facing third-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States. With the $43,000 first-place prize at stake, Sunday's medal matches will start at 1:30 p.m. with the third-place game followed by the 3 p.m. gold medal match.
The Smart Grand Slam action marks only the 10th-time in 111 women's "open" SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events that four different countries advanced to the semi-finals. Host Brazil had two teams in the 2004 season opener at Fortaleza while the United States advanced three teams to the Greece semi-final and two tandems to China's "final four."
After the Japan event had teams from Australia, Brazil, Greece and Switzerland in the "final four" earlier this month, last week's stop in the Swiss Alps had two Brazilian teams facing two tandems from the United States where the Americans captured the gold and bronze medals.
McPeak and Youngs rebounded from an opening 18-21, 21-17 and 15-11 setback to Adriana and Shelda to advance to the semi-finals with a 21-14 and 21-16 win over 17th-seeded Andrea Ahmann and Jana Vollmer of Germany. Lahme and Müsch, who dropped their first match to Friday to Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza 21-12 and 21-14, eliminated 27th-seeded Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta of Italy 17-21, 21-17 and 21-19 to earn a "final four" berth.
McPeak and Youngs will be competing in their 12th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour "final four" in 20 starts together on the international tour. The pair won the China stop earlier this season after placing second in Greece. Lahme and Müsch are also competing in their 20th international Beach Volleyball event with this being their second semi-final appearance after placing second in China last season.
With four-straight Beach Volleyball wins this week, Adriana and Shelda have now advanced to a "final four" for the 78th-time in 85 international starts together. The Brazilians have been in six-straight semi-finals this season with one gold (Japan), two silver (Brazil and Switzerland) and two bronze (Greece and China) to their credit.
Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza will be competing in their first semi-final this season and third "final four" 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.