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Moscow Grand Slam | Women
  6/06/2012 - 11/06/2012

First GS main draw for Giaoui/Benhamou and Urata/Take

France's Melody Benhamou (right) and Julie Rodrigue from Canada battling at the net
Moscow, Russia, June 7, 2012 – France's Deborah Giaoui and Melody Benhamou and Japan’s Satoko Urata and Takemi ‘Take’ Nishibori earned their first Grand Slam main draw ticket on Thursday in Moscow. Both teams won their two matches in the women’s qualification tournament of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour Moscow Grand Slam at the historic Victory Park venue.

Also advancing to Friday’s pool play are Austria’s second-seeded Sara Montagnolli and Barbara Hansel, third-seeded Karla Borger and Britta Büthe from Germany, Italy’s Daniela Gioria and Giulia Momoli (4th), the Finnish Nystrom sisters (5th), Dutch Madelein Meppelink and Sophie van Gestel (6th) and Brazil’s Angela Vieira and Liliane Maestrini (7th).

French upset

Seeded only 17th, Giaoui and Benhamou surprisingly upset top-seeded Americans Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Hanson in three sets (21-19 11-21 15-7) in the second and final round of qualification after they had already eliminated Canada’s Kacie MacTavish and Julie Rodrigue in the first (21-19 21-19). "We just did not have any expectations today," a very happy Benhamou said. "And when one of us was down, the other one pulled us up."

For Giaoui and Benhamou, whose best finish so far was 17th at the 2011 Quebec Open, it will be their first Grand Slam Main Draw in the two years they have been together. "This is a great result for us. We have been working hard and Deborah has sacrificed a lot these past years." said Benhamou, who has a French passport, but live in Canada. "She left France for Canada, where we are training during the winter."

Giaoui had been playing beach volleyball since 2004, when two years ago she got a message through Facebook from Benhamou, who was looking for a beach partner. "I just typed in French championships and Deborah’s name appeared. She said yes, and one week later she joined me in Canada." Their excellent performance did not only result in a Main Draw spot, but also roses from a secret admirer.

Japanese triumph

Ninth seeded Urata and Take Japan stormed by Russia’s Ksenia Dabizha and Yulia Abalakina (22-20 21-13) and USA’s eighth seeded Angela Akers and Brittany Hochevar (21-15 21-18) at a very high pace. They needed to compensate for being just two short girls, they commented afterwards.

"We speed up our game, use quick setting and move around a lot," Urata said. The duo hired a Brazilian coach in their third season together to teach them the fine art of blocking. The Japanese girls still target a small chance to move into the first 16 on the Olympic ranking. "Otherwise we will play the Asian Continental Cup final in China in June and try our chances there," Urata added.

On Friday the women’s tournament continues with 32 teams divided across eight pools. Among those teams are USA’s Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who beat Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta and Larissa França in the final last year. China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, gold medallists in 2008 and 2010, took the 2011 bronze.

This is the fifth consecutive Grand Slam in Moscow. In 1998 and 1999 the Russian capital hosted a men’s only World Tour event. Over 50 teams from 20 different countries entered the women’s tournament at the Victory Park plaza. The men start with qualifications on Friday.
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11/06/2012 China’s Xue/Zhang claim third title in ‘lucky’ Moscow
10/06/2012 Two Brazilian teams in women’s final four in Moscow
9/06/2012 China's Xue/Zhang on track for another medal in Moscow
9/06/2012 Australia’s Louise Bawden aiming for second Olympics
8/06/2012 Top three makes no mistake in Moscow
7/06/2012 First GS main draw for Giaoui/Benhamou and Urata/Take
30/05/2012 Moscow eager to impress ahead of Grand Slam
28/02/2012 Khomyakova targets “medals in Moscow”