Phuket, Thailand, November 2, 2011 - Seemingly not in the least distracted by the hovering whispering palms, magnificence of the adjacent Andaman Sea or the glistening sand of the Karon Beach venue, eight teams from six countries advanced from Wednesday’s two-round qualification tournament to Thursday’s 32-team main draw as the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour has resumed for the sixth time in Thailand with the women’s season-ending $190,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour is visiting Phuket for the sixth consecutive year at the purpose-built venue on Karon Beach for the extremely popular event being held through Sunday at the dynamic tourist destination on the southwest side of exotic Phuket. Many of the world’s top and up and coming women’s beach volleyball tandems are in Thailand as the 15-event 2011 women’s season ends with the sixth consecutive FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour season finale in Thailand.
Filling the final eight main draw spots are two teams each from China and Japan along with single duos from Italy Finland, Latvia and Netherlands.
The internationally-televised women’s season-finale of the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour schedule, the Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT, featuring 53 teams from 26 countries, began officially on Wednesday with a single elimination qualification tournament to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw double-elimination phase of the tournament which will be held Thursday through Saturday. The semifinals and medal matches will be played Sunday as the winning pair shares the $30,000 first-place prizes.
China’s two teams advancing to the women’s main draw are and Yuanyuan Ma/Changning Zhang while Japan’s teams who won their two matches Wednesday are Takemi Nishibori/Satoko Urata and Sayaka Mizoe/Shinako Tanaka. The additional four teams moving into the main draw are sisters Emilia Nystrom and Erika Nystrom of Finland, Italy’s Laura Giombini/Viktoria Orsi Toth, Latvia’s Inese Jursone/Inguna Minusa, and Netherland’s Merel Mooren/Jantine van der Vlist.
Two former Phuket championship teams are leading the field into Thailand this year. USA’s two-time Phuket gold medal winners Jennifer Kessy/April Ross won in 2008 and 2009 while China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang captured the crown of the inaugural event in 2006. Last year, Kessy/Ross finished 13th in the tournament as Ross was attempting to play very ill while Xue/Zhang had an injury forfeit ending the event with a ninth final placement.
Thailand has three teams entered in this year’s tournament and all have been pre-seeded into the main draw as the host nation. The three teams selected for the main draw are Kamoltip Kulna/Varapatsorn Radarong, Jarunee Sannok/Usa Tenpaksee and Tanarattha Udomchavee/Rumpaipruet. Numwong. Kulna/Radarong and Sannok/Tenpaksee both went undefeated this week in Phetchaburi, Thailand to lead Thailand’s women’s team to victory at the AVC Continental Cup zonal beach volleyball tournament of Southeast Asia.
Among the other teams entered in Phuket from among the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour top 10 money leaders are Italy’s Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti, Brazilian sisters Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado and USA’s Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson.
In Phuket last year, Menegatti captured the silver medal with a different partner while the Salgado sisters earned the bronze medal.
On this year’s FIVB Swatch World Tour, USA’s Kessy/Ross won the Grand Slam event in Stavanger, Norway in July while China’s Xue/Zhang earned the gold medal at the tour stop in Aland, Finland in August. Brazil’s top team entered in this year’s Phuket event, Liliane Maestrini/Angela Vieira, won the gold at the Olympic test event in London in August.
One of two surprise teams of the day was China’s Ma/Zhang, the 12th-seeded qualification team who defeated two Canadian teams to advance to the main draw while playing in their first tournament together. In the morning, China’s Ma/Zhang came from behind to defeat Canada’s Victoria Altomare/Caleigh Whitaker in three sets, 14-21, 21-11 and 15-9 in a 45-minute match. Ma, 21 and Zhang, just 15 years old, backed that first win up with an even more impressive win over the veteran Canadian team of Marie-Andree Lessard/Annie Martin in just two sets, 23-21, 21-16 in 40 minutes.
A rising youthful stars in China, Ma/Zhang were admitted very nervous playing as shown when they lost their first set of the tournament to Altomare. “We were so nervous when we first started playing today it was very hard to work together,” said an emotionally drained Zhang after her team’s advancement victory over Lessard/Martin. “We played good defense today, especially my new teammate Yuanyuan. I was so nervous she helped calm me down some but had to so more emotion than I normally do to release some of it.”
The other team that surprised many by advancing to the main draw as Italy’s 14th-seeded Laura Giombini/Viktoria Orsi Toth advanced with a pair of wins over teams from Canada and Georgia. The lowest-seeded qualification team to advance, Italy’s Giombini/Orsi Toth first beat Canada’s Jamie Lynn Broder/Kristina Valjas, 21-12, 21-14 in 34 minutes and then came from behind to defeat Georgia’s third-seeded Cristine Santanna/Andrezza Martins, 13-21, 24-22 and 15-13 in 49 minutes.
A total of 53 teams from 26 countries are competing in the Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT, including Australia (3 teams), Austria (1), Belgium (1), Brazil (3), Canada (4), China (3), Czech Republic (2), Finland (1), France (1), Georgia (1), Germany (2), Great Britain (2), Greece (1), Italy (3), Japan (3), Kazakhstan (4), Latvia (1), Malaysia (2), Mexico (1), Netherlands (3), Russia (1), Slovak Republic (1), Spain (2), Thailand (3), Ukraine (1), and United States (3).
The Phuket Thailand Open is being produced by Pentangle Promotions Co., Ltd. of Bangkok in association with the FIVB and the Thailand Volleyball Association.
The 2011 calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events 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 were combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and the six Grand Slam stops. The men’s tour concluded in October in Agadir Morocco.
The Phuket Thailand Open is the 232nd women’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. There have been 271 men’s events in FIVB Swatch World Tour history.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, please visit www.fivb.org.