Beijing, China, May 9, 2012 – Two-time Olympic champions and event title holders Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States suffered an opening loss for the second year in a row before bouncing back to improve to an 1-1 record in the first stage of the pool play in the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour Beijing Grand Slam women’s Main Draw on Wednesday.
Dropping their first pool D match against 29th seeded Finnish sisters Erika and Emilia Nystrom 15-21, 21-17, 16-14 and falling one set behind to Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley in their second match, the American fourth seeds eventually woke up to snatch a 21-23, 21-17 and 15-10 victory over the Australian duo and improve to a 1-1 win-loss record.
“I am so happy that we won, because we played against a team that was playing very well and this season we haven’t played well yet all year, so it’s important to win,” said Walsh. “Our plan is to capitalize our momentum, our energy, our positives and take it to the end of the tournament.”
Walsh/May-Treanor, who had captured 38 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour titles together, have yet to reach the podium this season following a fifth finish in Brasilia and a disappointing ninth place at the Shanghai Grand Slam last week.
“It’s a terrible start, we just need to keep working hard and need to stay confident,” Walsh added. “We have lost a bit confidence for some reason but hard work can build confidence, so we are going to keep working hard, playing as a great team every single match, we just need to understand that.”
Beijing seems to be the lucky place for May-Treanor/Walsh. Three years after claiming their second Olympic gold medal, they came back to Beijing last year and rebounded from an opening loss to win the inaugural Beijing Grand Slam in the Olympic Stadium at the Changyang Park.
“I hope to replicate that,” Walsh said. “Of course we believe that we can win. I want to win this tournament so badly, we love it here in Beijing the sand is so beautiful, the crowd is so beautiful. We are a good team and we just need to play like we are.”
After pulling out the big upset win over Walsh/May-Treanor, the Nystrom sisters lost to 12th seeds Nadine Zumkehr/Simone Kuhn of Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon.
“It feels great (to beat Walsh/May-Treanor), but we have to calm down and stay cool, it’s not enough in the pool play, you have to win everything for a good position in the qualification round,” said Erika. “I think they were doing some good things, but not in their best shape, we haven’t beaten them before, but we take the chance when they are not at their best.”
Beijing Olympic bronze medallists and top seeds Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China, second seeds Talita Da Rocha Antunes/Maria Antonelli and third seeds Larissa Franca/Juliana Felisberta Da Silva, both from Brazil, all collected a pair of wins in their respective groups.
Having snatched two titles in the first three events of the new season, home favorites Xue Chen/Zhang Xi were challenged before holding off 17th seeds Hana Klapalova/Lenka Hajeckova of Czech Republic 21-6, 18-21 and 15-11 for their second straight victory.
“The score of the first set means nothing, they just had a slow start,” said Zhang. “In the second set we made too many mistakes and couldn’t take our chances. But we are happy to come back and win the third set.”
Chen has not fully recovered from a injury she received to her right fingers in the bronze medal match of the Sanya Open 10 days ago.
“I was still affected a little bit during the match, I was not quick enough,” she said. “I think it will take a little more time. There will be three weeks break for us after this tournament and I will make good use of that period of time.”
Germany’s 21st seeds Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler upset fifth seeds Jennifer Kessy/April Ross of the United States 21-17 and 21-16 in a second round match for a 2-0 win-loss record and other teams remaining unbeaten in the women’s Main Draw include Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel of the Netherlands (6) and Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig (8).
Thirty-two teams are playing a single round robin in eight groups with the top three finishers from each group advancing to the 24-team knockout stage. The women’s round robin will finish on Thursday with the third and last round matches.
The Chinese capital is welcoming back international beach volleyball for the second straight year since the 2008 Olympic Games and the $600,000 Beijing Grand Slam is the fourth event on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour for both men and women.
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