Sanya, China, May 1, 2011 – Brazilian top seeds Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca rallied past Chinese defending event champions Xue Chen/Zhang Xi 2-1 (19-21, 22-20 and 17-15) on Sunday morning in the national televised gold medal match of the Sanya Open presented by Olympic Bay to win back-to-back titles on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour.
Following their success in the season opening Brasilia Open last week, Juliana/Larissa were crowned in the Chinese resort city for the first time and only the second time on Chinese soil having won the Shanghai Open in 2005.
“It was an incredible match and we are very happy to win,” Juliana said before the awarding ceremony. “We knew it would be a tough match and made good preparations last night.”
Trailing 12-10 in the decisive third set, the Brazilian duo ran off four straight points to take a 14-12 advantage. Roared on by nearly 3,000 home fans, Xue/Zhang beat off three match points to make it 15-all, but a smart tip effort from Juliana pushed the Brazilians up at 16-15 before a spiking mistake from Xue concluded the match in 66 minutes.
“They are an old team and the home fans were cheering for them,” Larissa, who split the US$30,000 title prize with Juliana, said. “We are very tired, but very happy. We've got two gold medals now.”
Xue/Zhang failed to repeat their title winning feat in 2010, but they could be satisfied with the silver after a ninth finish in Brazil last week.
“Despite the loss in the final, we are happy about our improvement,” Xue Chen said. “It’s the beginning of the new season and we are in better shape than last week. Hopefully we will be even better next week in Shanghai.”
The bronze medal went to third seeds Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes of Brazil automatically following the withdrawal of two-time defending Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States due to a left knee injury May-Treanor received in Saturday’s semifinal match against Xue/Zhang.
The American team also made the decision to withdraw from the Shanghai Open to allow May-Treanor enough time for recovery.
The 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour will continue next week with the US$380,000 double gender Shanghai Jinshan Open, which starts on Monday.