Brasília, Brazil, April 18, 2012—With the top two seeds losing Wednesday and pushed into the contender’s bracket, the first two teams to advance unbeaten to Thursday’s semifinals of the US$380,000 Brasília Open are Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes along with China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang. Six other teams remaining with one loss each in the 32-team, double-elimination tournament will play the final two elimination rounds tomorrow before the late afternoon semifinals against the Brazilians and the Chinese at the season-opening event of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour which is being held in the capital city of Brazil.
USA’s top-seeded two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh were upset by Brazil’s fourth-seeded Antonelli/Antunes in the fourth round of the winner’s bracket. Earlier Thursday, Brazil’s second-seeded reigning FIVB Swatch World Champions Juliana Felisberta/Larissa Franca were upset in the third round of the winner’s bracket by Italy’s seventh-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti. While May-Treanor/Walsh didn’t have to play again Thursday, Juliana/Larissa needed to play for a third time Wednesday, defeating Switzerland’s Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr in two sets before advancing to Friday morning’s contender rounds.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first FIVB-sanctioned event (Rio de Janeiro in 1987), the international beach volleyball circuit begins for the fourth consecutive season with the US$380,000 Brasília Open will be held through Sunday on The Esplanada dos Ministérios in Quadrante 1 as the Brazilian capital is celebrating its 52nd anniversary on Saturday. The tournament is the first of nine double-gender events on the 2012 schedule.
Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes defeated USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh in straight sets, 21-18, 21-14 in just 30 minutes for their second win of the day and China’s third-seeded Xue/Zhang earned their second triumph by defeating Italy’s Cicolari/Menegatti, 21-19, 21-15, in 35 minutes.
Thursday’s women’s schedule includes the remaining four matches from the contender’s bracket to determine the final two teams who will meet the Brazilians and the Chinese in Thursday afternoon’s semifinals. The women’s medal matches will be held Friday.
The winner’s in both the Brazil/USA match and the China/Italy match seemed in control from the start on the way to their solid victories.
Keeping a cushion of three points in the first set, Antonelli/Antunes combined great net play with just enough misses by May-Treanor/Walsh to pull out their first on-court victory over the illustrious American duo on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour. The official records reflect a 3-2 record between the two teams, although Antolnelli/Antunes were awarded a victory in the bronze medal match in Sanya, China when the Americans forfeited because a knee injury to May-Treanor in an earlier match.
"We were able in the court very concentrated and focused to neutralize their best qualities, for instance, the reception and it ended up with our first victory on the court over them,” said Antonelli, who with Antunes has 28 final four appearances in 42 international events, after the match. “We are very happy with our performance, but this is a very dangerous tournament because despite it being the first leg of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour as Brazilians we have a lot of pressure to win and to have good results. Anyway, we are very aware of what we are doing."
China’s Xue/Zhang played consistently and with few errors to increase their all-time world tour record over Italy’s Cicolari/Menegatti to 5-2.
"The Italians are a very tough, strong team so it was a very good match for us,” commented Xue, who with Zhang has had 35 final four appearances in 68 world tour events together as well as winning the bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. “With this win we already are assured of our best result in Brazil (semifinal) and we are very excited about it. People here is very warm and for sure they will cheer for us, even when we play Brazilian teams.”
Brazil has staged a FIVB SWATCH World Tour event every year since the start of the international series for men in 1989 and women in 1992. This will be the 34th men’s event and 29th women’s tournament on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour held in Brazil. It is also the 14th time that the FIVB SWATCH World Tour will have its season-opening event in Brazil. This is also the fourth consecutive year the tour has come to Brasília.
Besides USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh, Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa and Italy’s Cicolari/Menegatti, the other three teams still alive in the contender’s bracket of the tournament are Netherlands eighth-seeded Sanne Keizer, Germany’s ninth-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig and Netherland’s 31st-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel.
This event is the 272nd men’s and 233rd women’s competition in the history of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour.
The men’s main draw tournament will start Thursday. The gold medal teams in each gender in the Brasília Open will each split $30,000, the silver $21,000, the bronze $15,000 and fourth place $11,200. The internationally-televised medal matches for women will be held Friday and for men on Sunday.
With the season-opening event on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour calendar in Brazil, the road to the 2012 London Olympic Games has resumed as 16 of the 24 teams in each gender will be determined through year-long Olympic rankings through the FIVB SWATCH World Tour. This is one the first of nine double-gender events on the 2012 world tour schedule. Beach Volleyball at the London Olympic Games will run from July 28 to August 9.