|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 13, 2004 - With an overflowing crowd of more than 4,000 watching the action on the Praia de Iracema centre court, second-seeded Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar had "no trouble" in beating Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva in an All-Brazilian semi-final here Saturday morning 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener.
With their 21-14 and 21-17 win in 45 minutes against the 28th-seeded team in the Main Draw, Bede and Behar advanced to Sunday's Gold Medal match in the US$180,000 Brazilian Open against top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States. The winners share the $27,000 first-place prize while the losers take home the Silver Medal and split $18,000.
The Americans led for most of their two sets earlier Saturday with fourth-seeded Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China as May and Walsh scored a 21-19 and 21-19 win in 43 minutes to advance to their sixth-straight Gold Medal match on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
Sunday's final will also be a rematch of the last October's World Championship Gold Medal match May and Walsh scored a 21-19 and 21-19 win over Bede and Behar to dethrone the Brazilians. Bede and Behar, the Silver Medallists at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, had won the World Championships in 1999 and 2001.
Bede and Behar held 5-2, 9-5, 13-8 and 16-12 leads in the first set before controlling the second set with advantages of 5-2, 9-5, 13-8 and 16-12 before Larissa and Felisberta Silva rallied to trail 19-16 before losing.
"It's fantastic that we have such a strong team as Juliana and Larissa breaking out and starting with such big results as this already is," said Bede about their Brazilian rivals. "They have all the potential and, if they practice right and are given conditions, are able to become one of the greatest teams in the Tour. Now we're facing Walsh-May that, in my opinion, is the best team in the world right now. It will be another rough match up for us."
Felisberta Silva was "looking forward to playing with Larissa and there's nothing more grateful than achieving this success so early. We have done everything we needed to do throughout the week and unfortunately weren't able to do it again facing Adriana and Shelda. Against them, you're not allowed to simply do your job, you got to always be one step ahead."
Sunday's opening match features Jia Tian/Fei Wang versus Larissa/Felisberta Silva for the second-time this week. The Brazilians beat the Chinese women 15-21, 24-22 and 15-9 Friday morning. The winner of the match earns the Bronze Medal and the $14,000 third-place prize. The losers will split $11,000.