Sanya, China, April 26, 2012 — Home favorites Xue Chen and Zhang Xi along with seven other teams remained unbeaten after the first day of Main Draw competitions at the Sanya Open presented by Olympic Bay, the first women’s single gender event of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour.
Three tandems from Brazil, two from Austria and one each from Italy and Switzerland also won two matches in a row on Thursday to stay in the upper bracket.
Top seeded Xue/Zhang, who captured their tenth FIVB SWATCH World Tour title together last week in Brazil, held off a strong late surge from Brazilian qualifiers Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas Figueiredo for an opening 21-15, 24-22 win Thursday morning before sweeping the 16th seeds Maria Tsiartsiani/Vasiliki Arvaniti from Greece 21-17 and 21-15.
“It’s really hot here in Sanya. We are very happy to win two matches in a row today, otherwise it would be really difficult to play in the lower bracket,” said Xue Chen. “I think it’s a very good start for us.”
Playing on home soil, the 2010 Sanya Open champions were widely considered title favorites, but Zhang Xi preferred to keep a low profile. “It’s just a beginning (of the Olympic season), I think we need to work really hard, step by step, to achieve our goal,” she said.
Ninth seeded Zhang Changning/Ma Yuanyuan, the other Chinese tandem in contention, were not as lucky as Xue/Zhang. Dropping to a 1-1 win-loss record following an upset loss 16-21, 21-15 and 15-9 against Italy’s 25th seeds Gioria Daniela/Giulia Momoli Thursday afternoon, Zhang/Ma were sent to the losers bracket of the double-elimination Main Draw tournament.
Austria’s 20th seeds Sara Montagnolli/Barbara Hansel and 21st seeds Stefanie Schwaiger/Doris Schwaiger also pulled off upset wins in the second round of the Main Draw to join the “Unbeaten Club”. Montagnolli/Barbara outlasted fourth seeds Marketa Slukova/Kristyna Kolocova of Czech Republic 21-14, 21-23 and 21-19 in a full-set thriller while the Schwaiger sisters tamed Australian fifth seeds Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley 21-13 and 21-19.
Reigning world champions and second seeds Larissa Franca/Juliana Falisberta Da Silva, third seeds Maria Antonelli/Talita Da Rocha Antunes, 11th seeds Angela Vieira/Liliane Maestrini, all from Brazil, and 2009 Sanya Open champions Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland were other teams undefeated.
Antonelli/Talita, who lost to Zhang/Xue in the women’s gold medal match of last week’s season-opening Brasilia Open, bounced back to clinch a pair of 2-0 wins for a fine start in Sanya. “I’m very happy, it’s very hot today. If we win tomorrow, we will have a chance to go to the semifinals. And here in Sanya it’s very difficult to play because of the weather,” said Maria.
The Main Draw tournament of the US$190,000 Sanya Open will continue on Friday and Saturday with the finale set for Sunday. The gold medal teams will split US$30,000, the silver US$21,000 and the bronze US$15,000. The tournament is the first of three single gender events for women in the 2012 season, which also includes three single gender events for men along with nine double-gender events.
Sanya is hosting the FIVB SWATCH World Tour event for the fifth year in a row and this year’s Sanya Open is also included as a part of the Beach Volleyball Qualification Tournament for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
China will again stage three FIVB SWATCH World Tour events in 2012 and the Sanya Open will be followed by consecutive double gender Grand Slams in Shanghai and Beijing.
2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the first FIVB Beach Volleyball event held February 17-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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