Aland, Finland, August 19, 2011 — Chen Xue and Xi Zhang reached the final of the $380,000 Paf Open in Aland on day five of competition to keep alive their aim of winning their first gold medal of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, even if they have to go about it the hard way.
The number two seeds needed three sets to beat the number one seeds 21-19, 17-21, 15-12 and let slip one match point before a powerful Xue spike booked their place in the final. It meant the Chinese duo repeated their win over the Brazilians in the 2010 Paf Open final.
Xue and Zhang will now play Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor in the final. It is a repeat of the most recent final on the World Tour, the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt.
Earlier in the day Xue and Zhang needed three sets to beat another Brazilian pair, the Salgado sisters Maria Clara and Carolina, after they were forced to go through the contender’s bracket after losing to Talita Antunes and Maria Antonelli on day four.
The double elimination system means losing teams have a second chance to progress after their first loss.
“We are very happy to reach the final, though I think Chen was more relaxed than me today,” Zhang said. “We shall have to see how we are in the morning, but we served well and deserved to win.”
So far this season Xue and Zhang won bronze at the FIVB Beach Volleyball 2011 Swatch World Championships and have taken three silvers and a bronze on the World Tour.
May-Treanor and Walsh had a relatively straight forward win as they beat Brazilians Talita and Maria 22-20, 21-14.
After being pushed close in the first set, they used all their experience to close out the game with the win. The double Olympic champions will now be going for their fourth World Tour gold in 2011.
“Somewhere deep in my heart I really wanted us to play Juliana and Larissa because they kicked our butts last night and I wanted to show them what we can really do,” Walsh said. “But the Chinese are a very good team. I know they’ve played a lot of three set games, but they are still dangerous.”
“It was difficult because the Americans are so good,” Maria said. “We needed to stay focused all the time, but our setting wasn’t very good and I think that is why we lost.”
Maria and Talita will now play Larissa and Juliana for the bronze medal, the first time in 2011 that two Brazilian teams have done so.
“We have to go and concentrate on tomorrow,” Larissa said. “The bronze medal is now very important to us.”
The women’s main draw at the Paf Open concludes with the final on Saturday, August 20. It is the 13th stage of the 15 tournament FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, which concludes at the Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT in Phuket from November 1 to 6.