|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 23, 2004 - Playing in the same side of the winner's bracket, the top three women's Beach Volleyball teams from Germany posted wins here Wednesday during the opening Main Draw round of the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam at the Schlossplatz.
While 17th-seeded Andrea Ahmann and Jana Vollmer are scheduled to play top-seeded American Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States, the other two German teams face each other with the winner playing the Ahmann and Vollmer's match with the Americans.
Eighth-seeded Suzanne Lahme and Danja Müsch face ninth-seeded Okka Rau and Stephanie Pohl in a match that features Germany's top two women's teams on the Olympic qualifying list for the 2004 Athens Games. Pohl and Rau lead the German women with 2,058 Olympic qualifying points with Lahme and Müsch compiling 1,726 points.
With only two teams permitted from each country to compete in Athens, Ahmann and Vollmer are on the "outside looking in" with 1,348 for their best eight finishes since the start of the Olympic qualifying process in January 2003.
Ahmann and Vollmer posted the German's first win Wednesday by defeating 16th-seeded Tian Jia of Zhang Xi of China 21-19, 17-21 and 15-12. Rau and Pohl raced by 24th-seeded Chiaki Kusuhara and Ryo Tokuno of Japan 21-17 and 21-16. Lahme and Müsch came back to defeat 25th-seeded Renata Ribeiro and Shaylyn Bede of Brazil 16-21, 21-15 and 15-13.
"We have been waiting for this tournament all season," said Rau. "I am glad that our top three teams got off to a good start today. Obviously, we'll have one team advancing with a 2-0 mark to Thursday's third round of the winner's bracket. Hopefully, it will be us."
Rau and Pohl are in a close race with teams from China and Switzerland for the seventh-seeded spot in the Athens Olympic Beach Volleyball competition. As the host country, Greece will have a team seeded sixth in the competition and will compete in the same pool as the seventh-seeded team.
Tian Jia and Wang Fei of China have posted 2,116 Olympic qualifying points with Switzerland's Nicole Schnyder-Benoit and Simone Kuhn trailing by 22 points at 2,094. Behind the Swiss and China teams by 36 and 58 points, respectively, the Rau and Pohl have an opportunity to move ahead of the other two teams this week.
The Chinese team is not competing together this week due to Wang Fei's knee injury. For Rau and Pohl to move ahead of Schnyder-Benoit and Kuhn, the Germans must place at least 13th or better in the Smart Grand Slam hope for the Swiss pair to not finish higher than 13th.