Klagenfurt, Austria, August 2, 2011 – Enjoying a beautiful Austrian summer day by an impressive lake while competing feverishly on the sand, eight teams from seven countries victoriously advanced from a 31-team qualification tournament Tuesday to the women’s 32-team main draw Wednesday at the $600,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems are back in Austria as the double-gender event marks the 15th consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour with Klagenfurt hosting 14 previous men’s events and 10 previous women’s events. In 2001 Klagenfurt hosted the FIVB Swatch World Championships and has hosted a grand slam every year since 2002.
One of the most popular events of many ‘favorite’ events on the FIVB Swatch World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a purpose-built 8,000-seat center court stadium and massive two-story VIP hospitality area alongside the shore of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in southern Austria.
The seven countries that advanced from the qualifying matches Tuesday to the start women’s main draw on Wednesday were two teams from Canada and one each from Brazil, Canada, Finland, Georgia, Netherlands, Russia, and the United States.
The women’s single-elimination qualification tournament Tuesday determined the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw that will start on Wednesday with two days of round-robin pool play with teams divided into four-team pools that are based on seeds, for three games.
The last of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt began with women’s country quota matches on Monday, continued with the single elimination qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw on Wednesday through Friday. After pool play ends Friday, the top 24 teams will advance to single-elimination bracket play. The women’s semifinals and medal matches will be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. The men’s schedule mirrors the women, starting one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday.
The eight teams from seven countries who have earned the right to play three more matches over two more days of pool play were USA’s top-seeded qualification team Angie Akers/Nicole Branagh, Finland’s second-seeded sisters Emilia and Erika Nystrom, Georgia’s third-seeded Cristine Santanna/Andrezza Martins, Canada’s seventh-seeded qualification team Heather Bansley/Elizabeth Maloney, Russia’s 11th-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova, Brazil’s 12th-seeded Liliane Maestrini/Angela Vieira, Netherland’s 13th-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel and Canada’s Kacie MacTavish/Julie Rodrigue.
USA’s Akers/Branagh and Brazil’s Maestrini/Vieira both had to win a country quote playoff match on Monday just to get into the qualification tournament and while Akers/Branagh had a bye in the first round of the qualification tournament, Maestrini/Vieira had to win two more matches Tuesday to advance to Wednesday’s main draw.
To advance to the main draw, USA’s Akers/Branagh were pushed to three sets to finally overcome Latvia’s 17th-seeded Inese Jursone/Inguna Minusa, 21-19, 21-23 and 15-11 in 54 minutes, the longest match of the qualification tournament. Brazil’s Maestrini/Vieira first defeated Czech Republic’s 21st-seeded Sona Novakova/Tereza Tobiasova, 21-19, 21-18 in in 39 minutes and then came back in the advancement match to upset Russia’s fifth-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova, 21-10, 21-13 in 31 minutes.
Among the other teams to win two qualifying matches Tuesday to advance to the main draw was the Netherland’s Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel who defeated two teams from China. Van Gestel is playing in her first FIVB Swatch World Tour event since injuring her left knee several weeks ago and her first world tour event with Meppelink.
“We won our country quota playoff match for the second straight week and it was very nice to play someone else besides the same American team and we really enjoyed the warm weather which is more like what we experience when we play back home in the U.S.”, commented Akers following their advancement victory. “We like playing a lot of matches, but it’s also kind of nice to have that bye in the qualification tournament and save our energy for the main draw. The Latvia team is good and have us a strong challenge. We also beat them in pool play at the world championships in Rome, but this match was much more difficult. In the end, we took care of our side and took care of our opportunities in the tiebreaker set.
The talented field includes the entire final four finishers from both genders from last year as well as at least one member of the men’s gold medal teams in Klagenfurt 12 of the previous 14 years and seven of the previous women’s gold medal winners. Three of the men’s gold medal teams are playing with new teammates at the extremely popular event and venue.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Klagenfurt were USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (gold), USA’s Matt Fuerbringer/Nick Lucena (Silver), Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (Bronze) and Germany’s David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (fourth place).
Brazil’s Emanuel Rego has won six times with three different partners in Klagenfurt and this year Emanuel is playing with Alison Cerutti. The amazing Emanuel won here the first four years of the tournament, starting in 1997 with Ze Marco de Melo and the next three years (1998, 1999 and 2000) with Jose Loiola. Emanuel’s next two wins were both with Ricardo Santos (2004 and 2007).
While Ze Marco and Loiola are retired, Ricardo is paired for the second straight event this season with Pedro Cunha. Besides last year, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers won in Klagenfurt in 2009 and 2006. Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Benjamin Insfran, are back in their second FIVB Swatch World Tour event as team again, having won the gold medal in Klagenfurt in 2003 in the midst of their first partnership of over nine years. Russia’s Dmitri Barsouk won this event win in 2008 with Igor Kolodinsky but this year he has been teamed with Yury Bogatov.
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to Brazil’s Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima, the bronze was won by Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig and fourth place to Austria’s own Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli. This year all but Cunha/Lima are still playing as last year’s silver medalists were eliminated in a country quota playoff match on Monday.
Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa also won the Klagenfurt gold medal in 2009. The other Klagenfurt gold medal team back this year is USA’s two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh who struck gold here together four times (2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007) and Walsh also won here in 2004 with Rachel Wacholder.
A total of 158 teams from 42 countries (88 men’s teams from 33 countries and 70 women’s teams from 30 countries) have entered the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank, including Angola (1 men’s team, 0 women’s teams), Argentina (1,0), Australia (2,3), Austria (6,8), Belarus (1,0), Belgium (0,1), Brazil (8,5), Bulgaria (0,1), Canada (4,3), China (2,3), Czech Republic (3,3), Denmark (2,0), Estonia (1,0), Finland (0,1), France (2,0), Georgia (1,1), Germany (5,6), Great Britain (4,1), Greece (1,2), Italy (5,3), Japan (2,2), Kazakhstan (2,1), Latvia (3,1), Mauritius (0,1), Mexico (0,1), Netherlands (5,4), New Zealand (1,0), Norway (3,1), Poland (1,0), Portugal (2,0), Russia (3,2), Slovak Republic (0,2), Slovenia (0,2), Spain (2,2), Sweden (1,1), Switzerland (4,2), Turkey (2,0), Ukraine (0,1), United States (5,5), Uruguay (1,0), Vanuatu (0,1), and Venezuela (2,0).
The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
After the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour takes a week off for the 24-team women’s only Olympic test event in London’s Horse Guard’s Parade. Following that event, Europe hosts the final two double-gender open events of 2011 in Aland, Finland from August 15-21 and The Hague, Netherlands from August 23-28. The FIVB will then present the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under 21 years old, August 31-September 4 in Halifax, Canada.
The $600,000 FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011 is the 229th women’s event and 268th men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain. While this is the 25th year that the FIVB has sanctioned international pro beach volley events, it is the 23rd year of the men’s and 20th year of the women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour.
Also on-site this week at the Klagenfurt venue this week is a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of select matches, but also the weekly FIVB Swatch World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, please visit www.fivb.org or visit the event website at www.beachvolleyball.at.