|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 12, 2004 - Two tandems from host Brazil will be competing against teams from China and the United States as all four teams won semi-final qualifying matches here Friday at the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener on the Praia de Iracema.
Played before enthusiastic crowds where hot and humid conditions confronted both the spectators and players, "surprising" 28th-seeded Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva joined Brazilian counterparts Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar in Saturday's semi-finals along with Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States and Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China.
May and Walsh play Jia Tian and Fei Wang in the first semi-final match of the US$180,000 Brazilian Open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on the Praia de Iracema centre court. Bede and Behar are challenged by Larissa and Felisberta Silva in the second semi-final at 10 a.m.
The last time a seed as low as 28th made the semi-finals in a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event was when Alexandra Fonseca and Monica Rodrigues of Brazil placed fourth in the June 2002 in Madrid, Spain. Playing in their first SWATCH-FIVB World Tour together, Larissa and Felisberta Silva had to win four qualifying matches Tuesday and Thursday and are now 8-1 in the Brazilian Open.
"This is fantastic," said Felisberta Silva after she and Larissa advanced to the semi-finals with a 21-16 and 21-18 win over sixth-seeded Nicole Benoit and Simone Kuhn of Switzerland in 37 minutes in Friday's final match.
"From now on, it will get even better for us. Our performance is also special since we are playing in Brazil and with our families watching," Felisberta Silva noted. "We were very anxious at the start of our final match today, but we settled down and played well to defeat the Swiss."
The 19-21, 21-19 and 15-9 win in 62 minutes by the fourth-seeded Jia Tian and Fei Wang over the third-seeded Ana Paula and Pires makes up for China team's 17th-place finish in the 2003 season finale in Rio de Janeiro at October's World Championships. Prior to that, Jia Tian and Fei Wang had won 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour in Bali and Italy while placing fourth in the United States.
Winners of 32-straight matches on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, May and Walsh advanced to the semi-finals with a 18-21, 24-22 and 15-8 win in 60-minutes over Larissa and Felisberta Silva, who had upset teams from the United States, Canada and China earlier in the 32-team Main Draw.
In a 67-minute match featuring Brazil's top two teams, Bede and Behar defeated Ana Paula and Pires for the first-time in four matches on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour with a 22-20, 18-21 and 15-11 victory.