|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 11, 2004 - Led by three teams from Brazil and two tandems from the United States, six of the top eight-seeded teams captured a pair of wins here Thursday during the opening two winner's bracket rounds on the Praia de Iracema in the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener.
Teams from China, Germany and Switzerland each posted two winner's bracket victories in the US$180,000 international beach volleyball event. Action continued Thursday afternoon with two rounds of elimination bracket matches. Play resumes Friday morning with 16 teams vying for the final four spots and Saturday's semi-finals.
Seeded 28th in the 32-team Main Draw, Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva scored two upset wins Thursday to advance to a Friday match against Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China. The Brazilians have now won six matches this week, including four in the qualifier.
After upsetting fifth-seeded Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan of the United States 21-17, 10-21 and 15-11 in the first-round of the winner's bracket in a light rain, Larissa and Felisberta Silva out-lasted 21st-seeded Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin of Canada in hot and humid conditions to earn a match against the fourth-seeded Chinese tandem.
Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau, the European champions, used a win over fellow Germans Suzanne Lahme and Danja Musch (17-21, 21-18 and 15-10) to earn a spot in the third-round of the winner's bracket against top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States. May and Walsh defeated tandems from Japan and Australia to advance and extend their international winning streak to 30-straight matches since losing last July in the Norway final.
The Brazilian teams of Ana Paula Connolly/Sandra Pires and Shelda Bede/Adriana Behar also advanced with two wins Thursday. The third-seeded Ana Paula and Pires play sixth-seeded Nicole Benoit and Simone Kuhn of Switzerland Friday morning while Bede and Behar are challenged by seventh-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States.
Ana Paula and Pires, the top team on the 2003 women's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour points' standings and the last team to defeat May and Walsh, survived a second-round "scare" against 14th-seeded Vassiliki Arvaniti and Efthalia Koutroumanidou of Greece (11-21, 21-19 and 16-14).
"We had our chances and gave the Brazilians everything they asked for," said Arvaniti. "This was the best we have played against Ana Paula and Sandra in three matches. After playing our best set ever to open the match, we had our chances to win either of the next two sets. We matched them point-for-point until the end. A couple of mistakes hurt us, but we are very proud of our effort against one of the world's best teams on their home sand."
Pires noted that "this Greek team has been improving since 2003. They've actually been improving more than the No. 1 team in Greece of Karadassiou (Vasso) and Sfyri (Efi). As tough as the match was, I'm absolutely satisfied with the way we played. I've been on this road long enough to know that the game has its ups and downs and what really matters is what we have achieved today - winning."