Klagenfurt, Austria, August 3, 2011 – Soaking in the sun and the fun of a pleasant Austrian summer day, the sizzling sand on the Klagenfurt courts experienced the first two of three rounds of the women’s 32-team main draw pool play matches that saw 12 teams from 10 countries go undefeated heading into Thursday’s final round of round-robin play and the first round of single-elimination backet play at the $600,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
Leading their respective pools with 2-0 records are two teams from the United States, and one each from Brazil, Austria, China, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain. The 32 teams in the women’s main draw have been divided into eight pools of four teams each playing three round robin matches over two days.
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 fan-friendly 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 and is known as one of Austria’s top summer holiday destinations.
On Thursday morning, the women finish pool play with single matches that will determine the 24 teams that will head into the final single-elimination bracket play phase of the tournament. With the eight pool winners receiving a bye in the first round of elimination, the other 16 teams will play the first round on Thursday. On Friday, the winner’s of Thursday’s first round will meet the eight pool winners in the round of 16 followed by the quarterfinals to determine the women’s final four. On Saturday, the women’s semifinals and medal matches will be held on the Klagenfurt center court.
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.
Leading their pools after the first day of round robin pool play with 2-0 records are Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca (Pool A), China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang (Pool B), Czech Republic’s 14th-seeded Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova (Pool C), USA’s fourth-seeded Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh (Pool D), USA’s fifth-seeded Jennifer Kessy/April Ross (Pool E), Spain’s 11th-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez (Pool F), Austria’s 10th-seeded sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger (Pool G) and Netherland’s eighth-seeded Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel (Pool H). Pool leaders Juliana/Larissa, Xue/Zhang, Baquerizo/Fernandez and the Schwaiger sisters all won both of their matches without losing a set, each going 4-0 for the day.
Also undefeated but second in their respective pools because of tie-break rules are USA’s 16th-seeded Angie Akers/Nicole Branagh (Pool A), Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes (Pool C), Italy’s sixth-seeded Greta/Cicolari/Marta Menegatti (Pool F) and Germany’s seventh-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig. USA’s Akers/Branagh and Germany’s Goller/Ludwig were also 4-0 in sets won for the day.
Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa, the reigning FIVB Swatch World Champions who have won five world tour events this year and lead the season point and money standings, blasted their way through two pool play matches will relative ease. They started by overwhelming Austria’s 32nd-seeded Eva-Marie Pichler/Cornelia Rimser, 21-12, 21-8 in just 29 minutes for the quickest women’s match of the day. In their afternoon match, the two-time reigning A1 Grand Slam champions finished off Greece’s 17th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Maria Tsiartsiani, 22-20, 21-11 in 34 minutes. With the twin wins, Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa upped their match record on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour to 55-7.
China’s Xue/Zhang also came out of the shoot firing hard Wednesday. They opened with a 31-minute win over Canada’s 31st-seeded Kacie MacTavish/Julie Rodrigue and capped their hot day by defeating Switzerland’s 18th-seeded Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr, 21-19, 21-14 in 36 minutes. China’s Xue/Zhang increased their season record to 47-15 with their two victories Thursday.
USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh, who have won the Klagenfurt gold medal four times, opened with a pair of wins. First, they defeated Netherland’s 29th-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel, 21-15, 21-19 in 34 minutes and finished their day with a much-harder match, coming from behind to outlast Belgium’s 20th-seeded Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha in three sets, 19-21, 21-13 and 15-12 in 42 minutes. USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh have added to their season win total, currently 43-9 after their double victories in Thursday’s pool play.
Bringing their home-country fans to their feet on the packet center court, Austria’s Schwaiger sisters lead the Pool G after first beating China’s 23rd-seeded Ying Huang/Yuan Yue, 21-13, 21-15 in 33 minutes and to a standing ovation in the last match of the early evening, the happy sisters beat Russia’s 26th-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova, 21-17, 21-16 in 35 minutes.
Also delighting the near-capacity home country crowd at the Klagenfurt center court stadium, Austria’s Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli gave Austria its first victory of the day when they won their first pool play match by beating back Canada’s 24th-seeded Heather Bansley/Elizabeth Maloney, 21-16, 21-14 in 38 minutes.
“We haven’t playing that will and when we entered the stadium with a huge crowd of fellow Austrians we both tightened up and started out very nervous in that first match against the Canadians but we loosened up quickly and got the win which was really great in front of our family and friends,” said Montagnolli, the female players rep to the FIVB council who has also finish fourth in Klagenfurt the last two years with Hansel. “We have lost some tough matches this season which has hit our confidence some but we love playing well and it’s always a dream come true to play in front of our Austrian fans.”
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).
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 entered the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank, including Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.
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.