Klagenfurt, Austria, July 17, 2012—Enjoying a beautiful Austrian summer day by an impressive lake while competing feverishly on the imported sand, eight teams from six countries victoriously advanced from a 30-team qualification tournament Tuesday to the women’s 32-team main draw which starts Wednesday at the double-gender $600,000 A1 Grand Slam presented by ERGO in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
The world’s top beach volleyball tandems have returned to Austria as the double-gender event marks the 16th consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour with Klagenfurt hosting 15 men’s and 11 previous women’s events. In 2001 Klagenfurt hosted the FIVB SWATCH World Championships and has hosted a grand slam every year since 2002.
The six countries that advanced from two rounds of qualifying matches Tuesday to the start of main draw action on Wednesday were a surprising three teams from Switzerland and one each from Brazil, Germany, Russia, Slovenia and the United States.
The women’s single-elimination qualification tournament Tuesday determined the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw that will start on Wednesday with two days of round-robin pool play with teams divided into eight four-team pools that are based on seeds, for three games. On Thursday afternoon the single-elimination bracket phase for the women will begin with the top three teams from each pool advancing.
One of the most popular events of many ‘favorite’ events on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a purpose-built 8,000-seat stadium center court and massive two-story VIP hospitality area and private dock along with another private players dock alongside the short of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in Southern Austria.
The seventh of an FIVB-record eight grand slams on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour schedule, the A1 Grand Slam began with women’s country quota matches on Monday and continued with the single elimination qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw pool play which runs on Wednesday and Thursday and single-elimination bracket Thursday afternoon through Friday. The women’s semifinals and medal matches will be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. The men’s schedule mirrors the women, starting one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday.
The eight teams from six countries earned the right to play three more matches over two days of pool play were Brazil’s top-seeded qualification team and country quota survivors Liliane Maestrini/Angela Vieira, Germany’s fifth-seeded country quota survivors Jana Kohler/Anni Schumacher, Russia’s third-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova, Slovenia’s 18th-seeded Simona Fabjan/Andreja Vodeb, Switzerland’s sixth-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland’s eighth-seeded Tanja Goricanec/Muriel Graessli, Switzerland’s 13th-seeded Romana Kayser/Joana Heidrich and USA’s seventh-seeded Angie Akers/Britany Hochevar.
Brazil’s Maestrini/Vieira won their country quota match Tuesday for the eighth time in nine world tour events this year and then had a bye in the first qualification round before eliminating Canada’s 16th-seeded Kacie MacTavish/Julie Rodrigue, 21-19, 21-12 in 36 minutes in the Klagenfurt stadium center court.
The other seven qualifying teams, including all three from Switzerland, had to win two qualification round matches to moved into the main draw.
Determined not to stumble and get into the main draw, Brazil’s Maestrini said after their match, “The FIVB SWATCH World Tour is like three tournaments to us. First we have to win our country quota matches, then we have the qualification tournament and finally, if we are still winning, we make it to the main draw. We are continuing to improve each tournament and we hope we can get enough points here to make it into the main draw in Poland in August. We are trying to work harder as a team and the results have been showing, I think.”
For the first time this season Switzerland advanced three teams from the qualification tournament into the main draw, giving the country four teams in the main draw.
Switzerland’s Forrer/Verge-Depre their final advancing team Tuesday following their two-set victory over Canada’s 11th-seeded Marie-Andree Lessard/Annie Martin, 21-7, 21-19 in 35 minutes, Forrer gleefully commented, “We kept our heads together, kept putting pressure on them and we know they are a very good team so this was a really big victory for us and for Switzerland to have four teams in the main draw here in Klagenfurt.”
As the lowest-seeded qualification team to advance, Slovenia’s Fabjan/Vodeb, a new team to the tour, upset Russia’s second-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakaova, 21-16, 21-19 in 35 minutes in the final match of the day for the women’s qualification tournament.
The talented field includes the three of the final four finishers in the women’s competition from last year and all four of the men’s final four from last year’s A1 Grand Slam in Klagenfurt. Returning from last year’s women’s competition are China’s silver medalists Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, Netherland’s bronze medalists Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel and Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes who finished fourth last year for the third consecutive year. Brazil’s reigning FIVB SWATCH World Champions Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca are entered this year in Klagenfurt as well where they won the gold medal in both 2009 and 2010 and the silver in 2006.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Kalgenfurt, who are all entered this year with one player switching partners are Brazil’s Pedro Cunha/Ricardo Santos (gold), Germany’s Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann (silver), USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (bronze) and fourth place was Brazil’s Joao Maciel/Bruno Oscar Schmidt although this year Schmidt is playing with Benjamin Insfran, who won this event in 2003 in Marcio Araujo.
A total of 155 teams from 37 countries (89 men’s teams from 30 countries and 66 women’s teams from 24 countries) have entered the A1 Grand Slam presented by ERGO (as of July 15, 2012), including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States, and Venezuela.
The 2012 calendar features 13 women's and 12 men's events, including nine double-gender tournaments, within four of the five FIVB confederations in addition to the approaching 2012 London Olympic Games on July 28 to August 9 in a purpose-built 15,000 stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade. The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour is offering $6,110-million in prize money.
After the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2012 FIVB Swatch World Tour returns to action with the eighth and final grand slam double-gender event August 13-19 with the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki, Poland. The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
The A1 Grand Slam is the 241st women’s event and 281st men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill) schedule. The first men’s FIVB SWATCH World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain.
Also on-site this week at the Klagenfurt venue is a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of the medal matches, but also the weekly FIVB SWATCH World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
For more information on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org. For additional information on the A1 Grand Slam, please visit the event website at www.beachvolleyball.at.