Klagenfurt, Austria, July 20, 2012—Battling courageously through two tough elimination rounds Friday, four women’s teams from from the Klagenfurt sand to advance to Saturday’s semifinals and medal matches at the $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.
Winning the emotionally draining and physically demanding quarterfinal matches at the spectacular Klagenfurt venue that was filled to overflowing for the fourth straight day were Brazil’s fifth-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, China’s top-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, Netherland’s 13th-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel and Russia’s 28th-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova.
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.
While 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 has mirrored the women, starting one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday. Silver medalists will split $29,500 while bronze medal winners will divide $23,000 and the fourth place finishing teams in each gender will receive $18,400.
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.
Saturday’s star-studded final day of women’s competition will start in mid-morning with the semifinals and continue through the medal matches and pageantry of the awarding ceremony in the late afternoon, the matchups for the women’s semifinals will have China’s Xue/Zhang facing Netherland’s Meppelink/van Gestel and other other semifinal will pit Russia’s Khomyakova/Ukolova against Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes.
In Friday’s quarterfinal matches, Netherland’s surprising Meppelink/van Gestel won another seed break-through match, defeating Australia’s 11th-seeded Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley 21-19, 21-16 in 40 minutes, China’s Xue/Zhang held off Spain’s 17th-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez, 32-30, 21-15 in 40 minutes, Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes toppled Czech Republic’s 19th-seeded Lenka Hajeckova/Hana Klapalova, 21-19, 21-14 in 34 minutes and Russia’s Khomyakova/Ukolova upset Netherlands’ third-seeded Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel in three sets, 18-21, 21-7 and 15-11.
The four teams that lost in the women’s quarterfinals finished tied for fifth in Klagenfurt and each will split $13,200.
Previewing their semifinals which feature four teams heading to London next week to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games, China’s Xue/Zhang are playing in their 76th FIVB SWATCH World Tour event together and have earned their 41st final four spot while Netherlands’ youthful Meppelink, 22 and van Gestel, 21, are playing just their 11th FIVB SWATCH World Tour event together and this is their first final four appearance as they have only been playing together as a team since this event in Klagenfurt last year.
In the other semifinal between two 2012 Olympians, Russia’s Khomyakova/Ukolova are playing in just their 18th FIVB SWATCH World Tour event together and this is their first final four appearance while Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes are playing in their 49th world tour event together and they have earned their 33rd final four spot.
With their quarterfinal victories, China’s Xue/Zhang have a 47-5 on the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour while Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel are 29-12 overall which includes a 9-0 record in qualification tournaments. Just last September, van Gestel won a bronze medal with Remke Braakman in the 2011 FIVB SWATCH Junior World Championships for players under 21.
After notching their quarterfinal wins, Russia’s Khomyakova/Ukolova are 19-15 on the world tour this year, including a 5-1 record in qualification tournaments while Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes have a 33-13 record so far this season.
In Friday’s round of 16, held before the quarterfinals, the eight teams that lost in the second women’s elimination bracket round finished tied for ninth in Klagenfurt and each will split $$8,000 in prize money.
The round of 16 started Friday morning with another nearly-full Klagenfurt center court as Australia’s five-time Olympian and 200 gold medalist Cook and Hinchley thrilled the Austrian revelers with a stunning 47 minute victory over Brazil’s 21st-seeded Liliane Maestrini/Angela Vieira, 22-20, 21-19 to eliminate the Brazilians who had entered the match with a 5-0 record after winning a country quota match on Monday, a qualifying match on Tuesday and three pool play matches Wednesday and Thursday. Cook
In the biggest second round matchup, a pair of Brazilian London-bound Olympic teams battled through three sets before fifth-seeded Antonelli/Antunes upset second-seeded rivals and defending FIVB SWATCH World Champions Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca, 21-17, 21-13 and 15-12 in 57 minutes, the longest match of the second elimination round. Antonelli/Antunes improved their overall won-loss record against the two-time Klagenfurt champions to 7-15 on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, although Antonelli/Antunes do have a 3-2 edge in 2012 matches against Juliana/Larissa heading to London.
In another of the exciting matches of the round of 16 played in front of an appreciative near-capacity early morning crowd on the Klagenfurt center court and another of the pre-Olympic matches between London-bound teams, Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel came from behind to upset Germany’s seventh-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig, 16-21, 21-18 and 15-13 in 56 minutes
In another strong finish Friday morning by a less experienced team, Netherland’s Meppelink/van Gestel eliminated Brazil’s 23rd-seeded Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima in three sets, 17-21, 21-19 and 15-10 in 50 minutes.
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 Xue/Zhang, Netherland’s bronze medalists Keizer/Van Iersel and Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes who finished fourth last year.
A total of 155 teams from 37 countries (89 men’s teams from 30 countries and 66 women’s teams from 24 countries) started the A1 Grand Slam presented by ERGO.
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.