Shanghai, China, May 2, 2012 – Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley gave their hopes of qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games a huge boost with two wins from two on the first day of women’s main draw at the Shanghai Grand Slam presented by Jinshan Xinchen.
Natalie Cook is hoping her form in Shanghai will help her qualify for a fifth Olympic Games
The Australian pair beat the 2011 Shanghai Open winners, Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer of The Netherlands 26-24, 20-22, 15-13 in their second match. Earlier they came from a set down to defeat China’s Changing Zhang and Yuanyuan Ma, 15 -21, 21-14, 15-13.
“I haven’t done that for a long time, so to win two games in a day is unbelievable,” Cook, the Sydney 2000 gold medallist said. We’ve had a struggle the last two weeks and we need some points.”
Cook and Hinchley needed to be at their best against the Dutch pair, who were desperate for a win after they had lost to Germany’s Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler.
According to Cook, the fact that the 2011 winners are now struggling to progress from the pool stages, shows how much women’s beach volleyball has grown in recent years.
“The level on the tour is now unbelievable and you never want to drop into the qualifiers,” she said. “I’ve been there for the last two years and now we’ve got out of it we’ve got to stay there.
“These teams, the levels of their strength and the power they hit the ball with is like men’s volleyball was five years ago. I’m in awe of some of the players.”
Meanwhile, Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes kept up their strong start to 2012 with two wins from two in their opening matches.
First off they defeated Georgia’s Saka and Rtvelo 21-15, 21-8, then followed that win up with a 21-18, 21-14 victory over Heather Bansley and Elizabeth Maloney.
“We are very happy because we played very well today and won 2-0 both times,” Maria Antonelli said. “Now we have to win tomorrow.
“It has been good so far in China, but we know we are in a different situation this week, with it being a Grand Slam. Everyone from around the world is here. There are more players and more points available, which is important to our ranking.”
The duo began 2012 in outstanding form and finished on the podium in the first two tournaments of the year.
They had to settle for the silver in the Brasilia Open, when they narrowly lost to China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi, but turned the tables in the Olympic Bay Sanya Open, where they won gold.
“We wanted to win in Brazil, but weren’t able to because the Chinese played very well," Maria Antonelli said. "It has been a good start and we feel we are getting better.
"It is good for our confidence if we win and when we arrived here at this event we were feeling confident.”
There were also two wins for number one seeds and local favourites Chen Xue and Zhang Xi and reigning Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor of the USA.
The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour runs over a seven month period and features 12 tournaments for both men and women. For the women the season starts in April in Brazil and ends in October in Thailand.
The US$600,000 Shanghai Grand Slam is the second of nine double gender events and the winners share a $43,500 purse.
It is the eighth straight year in which Shanghai has hosted a women’s FIVB SWATCH World Tour event and the final takes place on 5 May.
Following the completion of the Shanghai Grand Slam the World Tour moves onto to China’s capital for the Beijing Grand Slam from 7-12 May.