Gstaad, Switzerland, July 27, 2007 - Except for Tamsin Barnett, one of Friday’s opening women’s elimination match in the US$1-million 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1to1 energy featured a rematch of the gold medal finale at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games where Australian Natalie Cook reigned supreme with Kerri Pottharst.
Nearly seven years later, Cook is playing her first season with Barnett while Pottharst is retired with a son and coaching. And Friday morning, Cook and Barnett faced the other half of the Sydney finale as the Australians posted a 19-21, 21-12 and 15-13 win in 58 minutes over Adriana Behar and Shelda Behar of Brazil.
“No, it did not feel like an Olympic rematch,” said the 32-year old Cook, who is in the midst of her 15th-season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. “It felt like the 11th match on this year’s SWATCH tour. Nothing can ever feel like the experience of our gold medal win in Sydney. However, this match is important since it is the world championships.”
With Cook ailing with knee problems and Barnett’s shoulder hurting, the Australians will now play their second-straight Brazilian team mid-day Friday when the Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) challenge the seventh-ranked team on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
“Both Tamsin and I are not 100 percent, so we are just getting by,” Cook added. “Thankfully, we had a good service game against Adriana and Shelda. You have to put the pressure on them constantly since they are such a great passing and setting team. I think we made it tough on ourselves with some errors. I made two at the end of the first set that gave them the win. We were up 9-5 in the third set due to our service game, but we let them back in the match.”
The Salgados, the 18th-ranked team on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, opened with a 21-19 and 21-17 win over Dana Cooke and Annie Martin of Canada. The winner of the Australia-Brazil match will advance to the women’s quarter-finals later Friday against either Jia Tian/Jie Wang of China or Vasso Karadassiou/Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece.
Tian and Wang, the No. 1-ranked team on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, won their opening match with a 21-16 and 21-12 victory over Inguna Minusa and Inese Jursone of Latvia. The Greeks eliminated the second Brazilian team in Friday’s first-round with a 19-21, 25-23 and 15-10 victory over Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly.
Two-time SWATCH-FIVB World champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh survived their first-round match with a 21-19 and 21-18 American victory over Simone Kuhn and Lea Schwer of Switzerland. May-Treanor and Walsh face American rivals Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder for a spot in the quarter-finals against a German team as Rieke Brink-Abeler/Hella Jurich face Antje Roder/Helke Claasen.
Other first-round winners in the bottom half of the bracket Friday were Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and Renata Ribeiro/Talita Antunes along with China’s Lu Wang/Man Zuo and Okka Rau/Stephanie Pohl of Germany. Juliana and Larissa will play the Chinese with the winners challenging Renata/Talita or the Germans in the quarterfinals.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, which also features men’s competition, continues through the weekend. The women’s semi-finals and finals will be played Saturday where the winning team splits the $60,000 first-place prize. The men’s elimination rounds will be played Friday and Saturday followed by the “final four” matches Sunday.