Brasília, Brazil, April 21, 2011—Basking in the sun, fun and atmosphere of a South American festival, tandems from Brazil and the United States grinded out semifinal matches victories Thursday to advance to Friday morning’s internationally-televised women’s gold medal match in the $US380,000 Brasília Open, the season-opening event on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour calendar.
Although they haven’t played each other since June 14, 2008, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and USA’s Misty May-Treanor are both 5-0 and will meet Friday morning for the gold medal at the Brasília Open, being played for the third consecutive season in Brazil’s capital city. Competition will continue through Saturday on The Esplanada dos Ministérios in Quadrante 1.
While Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana/Larissa have been 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.
This will be the 15th meeting between the two most prominent women’s teams in beach volleyball and 12th time in a gold medal match. Treanor/Walsh have an 11-3 edge in the series, 8-3 in finales. As a team, Juliana/Larissa have 36 career FIVB Swatch World Tour gold medals while Treanor/Walsh have 35. The Brazilians are in their 71st final four in 85 events together and the Americans are in their 53rd final four in 60 events together.
With three teams from the United States and one from Brazil in the semifinals, Juliana/Larissa advanced to the gold medal match by defeating eighth-seeded reigning FIVB Swatch World Champions Jennifer Kessy/April Ross, 21-19 and 23-21 in 46 minutes while in the all-American semifinal, May-Treanor/Walsh defated 22nd-seed qualifier team Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson, 21-15, 21-18 in 30 minutes.
Kessy/Ross, who finished fourth in this event last year, will meet Fendrick/Hanson, who are playing here together for the first time, in the bronze medal match.
The Brazilian capital celebrating its 51st anniversary this week, crowds with thousands of spectators during Thursday’s anniversary celebrations which feature the FIVB Swatch World Tour event.
Friday’s matches will include the remaining four matches from the contender’s bracket to determine the final two teams who will meet teams from the United States and China in Friday afternoon’s semifinals.
Juliana/Larissa earned a pair of victories Thursday 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 Goller/Ludwig in last year’s gold medal match in Brasília.
“They (May-Treanor/Walsh) are still as good as ever which is remarkable, but we have changed a lot ourselves,” reflected Juliana, who has with Larissa, has won both tour stops in Brasília. “The whole country is waiting for this final. We will rely on the energy and support of our fans to help us beat them.”
Two-time Olympic champions May-Treanor/ Walsh, who after an absence of over two years away from playing together on the FIVB Swatch World Tour increased their FIVB record match win streak to 80 with their semifinal victory.
“I’m sure they (Juliana/Larissa) will not come onto the court thinking about how many times we have beaten them,” said Walsh after her team’s semifinal win. They have dominated the FIVB Swatch World Tour for years and we respect that. But our goal is to reach the top again. For that, we know that we have to beat Juliana and Larissa.”
Kessy/Ross advanced to the semifinals by eliminating Brazil’s third-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, 21-16, 21-15 in 39 minutes and Fendrick/Hanson earned their semifinal spot with their elimination round win over Germany’s fourth-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig, 16-21, 21-17 and 19-17 in 57 minutes. Antonelli/Talita and Goller/Ludwig both will split $9,100 for their fifth place finishes.
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.
The champions will split US$30,000 first-place prize for each gender, while silver medalists receive $21,000 and bronze medalists $15,000.