Sanya, China, April 29, 2011 – Brazilian top seeds Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and Chinese defending champions Xue Chen/Zhang Xi each scored a pair of victories on Friday to secure their berths in the semifinals of the Sanya Open presented by Olympic Bay, the second event of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour.
Having captured five of the last six season’s championships on the international tour as well as the season-opening Brazilia Open title last week, Larissa/Juliana saw off 22nd seeded Mayra Garcia/Candelas from Mexico 21-18 and 21-19 before rallying past defending two-time Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States 16-21, 21-16 and 15-12.
May-Treanor and Walsh, who had their FIVB record 80-game winning streak snapped by Larissa/Juliana in the final of the Brazilia Open, have to play a lower bracket match on Saturday for a ticket to the top four in the double elimination tournament.
Second-seeded home duo Xue/Zhang needed two hard-fought full-set wins to make Saturday afternoon’s semifinal. Following a 21-19, 16-21 and 15-10 victory over Ekaterina/Khomyakova, which snapped a four-game winning streak of the Russian qualifiers, Xue/Zhang came from one set down to defeat Maria Antonelli/Talita Antune 16-21, 22-20 and 15-12, sending the Brazilian third seeds to the lower bracket.
“We really want to win it back after losing the first set and we’ve been trying really hard,” Zhang Xi said after the 48-minute battle against Antonelli/Talita. “As her partner, I can see that she was (Xue) under big pressure, but she did very well for a few key points which gave us the momentum. I think if I were she I could not have done as well as she did.”
Xue was appreciative to the support of the enthusiastic home fans. “I love the atmosphere here in Sanya. The fans have given us a great morale boost, especially in the last two sets.”
Other teams staying in contention with one defeat each were 2008 Sanya Open winners Jennifer Kessy-Boss/April Ross and 13th seeds Angie Akers/Nicole Branagh of the United States, seventh seeds sisters Stefanie Schwaiger/Doris Schwaiger from Austria and Australian qualifiers Alice Rohkamper/Tamsin Hinchley.
The 2009 Sanya Open champions Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland were eliminated after losing to Stefanie Schwaiger/Doris Schwaiger in a lower bracket match Friday afternoon.
The Main Draw tournament of the US$190,000 Sanya Open will continue on Saturday with the finale set for Sunday. The gold medal teams will split US$30,000, the silver US$21,000 and the bronze US$15,000.
The tournament is the first of three single-gender events for women in the 2011 season, which also includes two single-gender events for men along with 12 double-gender events and a special 24-team Olympic test even in London August 9-14.