Brasília, Brazil, April 20, 2011 - A nostalgic return to previous years on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour was on display at the opening event of the 2011 season on Wednesday as Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and USA’s Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh remained undefeated at the Brasília Open and became the first two women’s teams to advance to Thursday’s semifinals.
Six other teams with one loss each in the 32-team, double-elimination tournament will play the final two elimination rounds tomorrow before the late afternoon semifinals against the Brazilian and American rivals.
While Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana/Larissa have won five of the last six season championships on the international tour, their American rivals May-Treanor/Walsh, seeded seventh in this event, have reunited for the first time since they won the 2008 Beijing Olympics for their second Olympic gold medal.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011, the international beach volleyball circuit is starting with the US$380,000 Brasília Open for the third consecutive season. Competition will continue until Saturday on The Esplanada dos Ministérios in Quadrante 1.
With the Brazilian capital celebrating its 51st anniversary this week, crowds exceeding one million are expected to attend various holiday activities on the Esplanada dos Ministérios in Brasília, especially during tomorrow’s anniversary celebrations which feature the FIVB Swatch World Tour event.
Thursday’s matches will include the remaining four matches from the contender’s bracket to determine the final two teams who will meet the Brazilians and the Americans in Thursday afternoon’s semifinals. The women’s medal matches will be held on Friday.
Juliana/Larissa earned a pair of victories on Wednesday over teams from Australia and Germany. First they defeated Australia’s 25th-seeded Louise Bawden/Becchara Palmer 21-16, 18-21 and 15-5 in 52 minutes and capped their day by beating Germany’s fourth-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig 21-16, 21-14 in 37 minutes. The Brazilians beat the German tandem in last year’s gold medal match in Brasília.
“We know that the most difficult moments will begin now, when each match requires more and more concentration,” reflected Juliana, who has 36 career FIVB gold medals with Larissa, including the last two in Brasília. “I’m very happy, after all, every athlete trains exactly for this. But we are home, in Brazil, where the rooters cheer for us, giving us some extra energy.”
Two-time Olympic champions May-Treanor/Walsh who, after an absence of over two years on the FIVB Swatch World Tour, increased their FIVB record match-win streak to 79 with a pair of seed break-through victories over teams from China and Brazil.
Seeming to play much better than expected by everyone but themselves, May-Treanor/Walsh opened the day with a 21-19, 21-12 win in 34 minutes over 2008 Olympic bronze medal winners Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China, who are seeded second in this tournament. May-Treanor/Walsh won their final match of the day by defeating Brazil’s third-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Anunes, 21-10, 21-17 in 29 minutes.
“We love playing together, it’s as simple as that and the competition makes us better,” said May-Treanor who seriously injured her Achilles tendon while appearing on the Dancing with the Stars television show in 2009 in the United States (Walsh missed most of the last two years having two children). “It’s almost like we were never apart. We are seriously focused and our rhythm is improving quickly. Kerri is the greatest partner in the world. She makes my job so easy and she never leaves me (on the court). We aren’t surprised at all by how we are doing. We are just focused and we except to win every time we step onto the sand.”
Brazil has staged a FIVB Swatch World Tour event every year since the start of the international series for men in 1987 and women in 1992. This is the 33rd men’s event and 28th women’s tournament on the FIVB Swatch World Tour held in Brazil. This is also the 13th time Brazil has been the site of a season-opening event on the international circuit.
Besides Antonelli/Talita and Goller/Ludwig, the other four teams still alive in the tournament are Xue/Zhang, Austria’s sixth-seeded Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger along with a pair of American teams – eighth-seeded world champions Jennifer Kessy/April Ross and 22nd-seeded Laura Fendrick/Brooke Hanson. Fendrick/Hanson first had to win a Country Quota Match and then two matches in the Qualification Tournament before even advancing to the Main Draw.
The Main Draw rounds also continues on Thursday for the men as champions will split US$30,000 first-place prize for each gender.