Aland, Finland, August 20, 2011 — Number two seeds Chen Xue and Zhang Xi won their first FIVB Swatch World Tour event of the year when they beat fourth seeds Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in three sets to retain the gold medal at the $380,000 Paf Open in Aland.
Chen Xue (right) and Xi Zhang won their first FIVB Swatch World Tour title of 2011 with victory in the gold medal match against Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh at the Paf Open
The Chinese duo started strongly and took the first set, but the United States team fought back to draw level in the second. In the third Chen and Zhang took an early stranglehold of the set and held on to win 21-16, 17-21, 15-9.
Both teams now move on to compete in the HP Open in The Hague, which runs from August 23-28 August.
“This is our lucky place and we like it a lot,” Xue said. “We learned a lot from Misty and Kerri over the years, so we have to say thank you to them. We didn’t think we would win a medal here, but the win is good for us ahead of next week.”
In both the first and third set Xue and Zhang raced into an early lead and held on. May-Treanor and Walsh managed to save one set point in the first, before the Chinese took the set. In the third Xue took the pair to match point with a delicate lobbed shot to the back of the court. She then hit an ace to win the tournament.
“I had a bit of a sore leg, so Chen had to look after me and she did so by playing very well,” Zhang said. “I don’t like playing in the wind because it makes the ball move everywhere.”
Both sides had had to go through the contender’s bracket after losing matches earlier in the tournament. The double elimination system used at the Paf Open means losing teams have a second chance to progress after their first loss.
The match was a repeat of the most recent final on the World Tour at the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt, which May-Treanor and Walsh won.
“These girls are a tough team,” May-Treanor said. “We beat them in the last tournament in Austria, so we knew they would come out fighting. After the first set we had to come out and play tough, but in the third the momentum changed. Xi was digging everything.”
First seeds Juliana and Larissa took the bronze medal with a close fought match against their fellow Brazilians Talita and Maria 21-19, 18-21, 21-19.
The 2011 FIVB Swatch world champions started in determined form and showed that they were eager to put their loss to Xue and Zhang behind them by taking the first set.
“We played well today, better than yesterday,” Juliana said. “Hopefully we can improve for the tournament next week.
“It is very important for the World Tour. The match was so close and we were up and down throughout.”
Maria and Antonelli then came back to take the second set and maintained their form into the second. They had five match points, but World Tour leaders Juliana and Larissa saved all of them before they turned the match in their favour to take the bronze.
“It is very hard to play other Brazilians, as we play each other many, many times,” Larissa said. “We felt bad about how we played yesterday and played much better today.”
The Paf Open 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.