Mariehamn, Finland, August 31, 2012 – Spain’s Liliana Fernandez Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan reached the semifinals of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour Paf Open with a spectacular win over top seeded Juliana Felisberta da Silva and Larissa Franca on Friday.
Spain's Liliana Fernandez Steiner (on the back) and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan celebrate their victory over Brazil's Juliana and Larissa
Third seeded Swiss Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr also secured a spot in the final four, but second seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler were send off to the loser’s bracket by Russia’s Evgenia and Ekaterina Khomyakova in another upset on the second day of main draw on the Finnish Aland Islands.
Like Juliana and Larissa the Germans are still in the tournament though after winning their match in the loser’s bracket.
In their first match of the day Juliana and Larissa seemed to cruise into the next round, winning the first set 21-10 against 8th seeded Liliana and Baquerizo. But the Spanish turned the game around, playing almost flawless in the second. After a thrilling tiebreak, with two match points for Brazil and four for Spain, Liliana decided the match after nearly one hour with a kill block on Juliana: 10-21 21-19 20-18.
’’We, especially me, made a lot of mistakes’’, Juliana said afterwards. ’’After the first set the Spanish played really well and that gave them confidence for the third set. But this loss opened my eyes and I played hard all the way in our second match today.’’
The Brazilians won against Swiss Tanja Goricanec and Muriel Graessli (21-12 21-11) in the loser’s bracket later on and are still in the running for the Aland final and the 2012 World Tour title, as rivals Chen Xue and Zhang Xi are absent in Finland. ’’Larissa is already calculating’’, Juliana said. ’’Not me, I just worry about playing.’’
No time to think
Liliana and Baquerizo were still on a high after beating Juliana and Larissa for the first time in seven encounters. They easily beat Brazil’s Maria Clara/Lili (21-16 21-13) in their second game of the day, securing their semifinal spot. ’’We did not have time to relax or think after beating Juliana and Larissa and that was a good thing. We started really strong in our second match’’, Liliana said.
The Spanish girls, who played only one World Tour semifinal before, finishing fourth in Quebec in 2011, did not expect to win against Juliana and Larissa. ’’Before the game we thought we would just use this match to get a good rhythm for the rest of the event’’, Liliana admitted. Baquerizo: ’’They have been the number one team for years and it means a lot to us to finally beat them. Not only for this tournament, but also for confidence. So we know we can do it.''
Switzerland’s Kuhn and Zumkehr reached the semifinals with two straight wins over Czechs Klapalova/Hajeckova (21-17 21-12) and Russia’s Ukolova/Khomyakova (21-13 21-16). ’’We knew, on paper, we had a good chance to make it to the semifinals here, but you still have to grab that chance’’, Kuhn said.
The Swiss team looks back on a successful season, winning the Grand Slam in Rome and finishing third at the Grand Slam in Gstaad. Zumkehr: ’’We have just been playing game by game, point by point and try to have fun.’’ On their chances on reaching the final she said: ’’It is Simone’s birthday on Sunday, so the best present for her would be playing the final.’’
The other two semifinalists will be known after two rounds in the loser’s bracket on Saturday morning. The semifinals are scheduled for 16.30 (local time) and 18.00. The bronze medal match and the final are played on Sunday. The winners of the Paf Open share $30,000, second place is worth $21,000 and the bronze medallists split $15,000.
After Aland the women have one more event on the calendar, the Bangsaen Thailand Open at the end of October (23-28). The men have already completed the 2012 World Tour season.