Phuket, Thailand, November 6, 2008 - Stronger teams had a field day in the main draw of the Phuket Thailand Open at the Karon Beach here Thursday, but the top seed Salgado sisters, Maria Clara and Carolina, enjoyed mixed fortunes following a morning win over a Thai pair and a stunning loss to a lesser-ranked Italian pair in the afternoon.
Compatriots Maria Antonelli and Vanilda Leao, fourth seeds and world No. 8 pair, faced a similar fate as they defeated Sweden's Tora Hansson and Camilla Nilsson in the morning ahead of a loss to Australian No. 13 seeds Tamsin Barnett and Becchara Palmer.
As the two Brazilian teams had an up and down day, the Americans fared better. The American second seeds and world No. 5 pair April Ross and Jennifer Boss and third seeds Nicole Branagh and Tyra Turner stormed to the third round following two straight wins apiece.
Tipped to be the title-favourites at this year’s Phuket Thailand Open, Brazilians Maria Clara and Carolina have had a remarkable run in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour this season following their scintillating win in Myslowice, Poland, in September.
They also finished third in Stare Jablonki, Poland; Marseille, France; and Dubai, UAE. However, they opened their campaign at the penultimate stop of this year’s 19 World Tour events with mixed luck.
After the Brazilians thrashed Thailand’s Supunnee Doksuntia and Kasinee Godtalang in straight sets 21-15 and 21-12 in the morning event, their afternoon rival pair, Italians Daniela Gioria and Glulia Momoli, proved an impossible nut to crack.
Going down in the first set 21-13, the 16th-seed Italians played with guts to chase for every point. But holding a 21-20 advantage, the smaller-built and agile Brazilians needed just one more point to end the Italian challenge in the second set.
The spirited Italians, though, did not want to give up easily, pouring on everything they had, and with Gioria blocking effectively and Momoli carrying out well-placed drops they won the hotly-contested second set 26-24.
In the do-or-die tie-breaker, the Italians, No. 32 in the world, performed superbly to foil the formidable Brazilians’ determined attempts. Taking a commanding 14-8 lead, Gioria produced a great serve to the back court and it went unanswered. The Italians eventually clinched the set 15-8 and the grueling battle.
Gioria expressed her satisfaction with the win, saying she is now more confident playing any team in the following rounds.
“It’s good to beat them (the Brazilians) as they are the strongest team here. They played very well, but we just tried to give our best form. Momoli and I have been playing for two years already and I think we combine well,” Gioria said.
Said Momoli: “After beating the top seeds, I think we now can beat any team in the tournament. The competing venue here is just perfect. Above all, Thai people are very nice."
Unlike the Italians, Maria Clara was not satisfied with her form: “In fact, not strong teams came here this time and after finishing a disappointing fifth last time I think we stand a better chance of going much better than what we did in the previous year.
“However, with the likes of China, the USA and Italy, I admit that we would have a tough time here. We played well, but we also made too many unforced mistakes against the Italians. I think they (Italians) are one of the good teams as they are playing better and better. We beat them before in Poland and they had avenged the loss. I hope that we will regain our top form tomorrow (Friday),” she added.
Meanwhile, only two teams of the host country made it to Friday’s competition. The South East Asian Games two-time champions Kamoltip Kulna and Yupa Puklongploy and the other pairing of Usa Tenpaksee and Jarunee Sannok, fresh from winning the Asian Beach Games in Indonesia, enjoyed morning wins but went down to their much stronger rivals in the afternoon.
At the end of the first day of the double-elimination main draw, a total of eight teams crashed out from the competition following their two successive losses.
They comprise Doksuntia/Godtalang from Thailand, Swedes Tora Hansson/Camilla Nilsson, Mexicans Xitlali Herrera/Rosarid Reyes and two Canadian teams - Natalie Lukiw/Rebecca Moskowitz and Katherine Zakrzewski/Elizabeth Maloney.
Also leaving after two straight losses were Americans Gretchen Duffner and Alicia Zamparelli and two pairings from Norway - Janne Kongshavn/Kjersti Hansen and Ragnhild Ass/Siri Bjokesett.
The eight unlucky teams on Thursday ended their campaign in joint 25th place to receive prize money of US$1,800 apiece.
Supported by PTT Group, TOT, Phuket Gazette, Loxinfo, Woraburi Phuket, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Sport Authority of Thailand, Kata Group and Bangkok Hospital, the US$175,000 event continues through Sunday when the final two teams battle it out for the well-earned crown along with winners' prize money of US$28,000.