Bangsaen, Thailand, October 26, 2012 – Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas de Freitas reached their first World Tour semifinal on Friday at the FIVB SWATCH Bangsaen Thailand Open. USA’s Lauren Fendrick and Nicole Branagh also claimed a spot in the final four. Their opponents will be determined on Saturday.
USA's Lauren Fendrick (left) and Nicole Branagh reached the semifinals of the Bangsaen Thailand Open
Still in the running for those other two final four spots are first seeded Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, third seeded Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova and fourth seeded Anna Vozakova and Anastasia Vasina from Russia, Kazakhstan’s Irina Tsimbalova and Tatyana Mashkova (8th seeded), Finland’s Emilia Nystrom and Taru Lahti (20th) and Greece’s Maria Tsiartsiani and Vasiliki Arvaniti (6th).
Fifth seeded Agatha and Seixas only started playing together this year, 5th place in Gstaad was their best result so far. This will be their first semifinal as a team, but for former youth and junior world champion Seixas it will even be her first semifinal on the World Tour.
And it might cost her a haircut in the end. ’’When we started out this year, I said I would cut my hair short when we win our first World Tour title’’, Seixas said. ’’And I want to do it, because I want to win really bad.’’
The Brazilian team started off with a 15-21 21-19 15-10 win over fourth seeded Russians Vozakava and Vasina. In their second match of the day they beat eight seeded Tsimbalova and Mashkova from Kazakhstan (21-19 21-18).
’’It was a tough game again. There was a lot of wind and we made a lot of mistakes with our serve in the first set’’, Seixas said. ’’We had to try and find the best way to handle that.’’
Agatha said there was one thing that put them ahead of the other teams. ’’The weather. We are used to this humidity and temperature. Last month we played on the Brazilian tour and it was even 50 degrees Celsius. We got second place there, losing to Larissa and Juliana in the final.’’
Sweet spot for Thailand
The other semifinalists Fendrick and Branagh have a sweet spot for Thailand as well. Branagh won the event in 2010 with Kerri Walsh and finished second in 2007 (with Elaine Youngs) and 2008 (with Tyra Turner). Fendrick entered the Thailand Open three times before and finished fourth in 2009 with Ashley Ivy.
Apart from a few tournaments in the USA they had never played together before Bangsaen. ’’But we compliment each other well. While playing together we are feeling each other better and better. And there is good communication’’, Branagh said.
That showed, because seventh seeded Fendrick and Branagh defeated the second and third seeded team in one day. First they sent fellow Americans and two time Thailand Open champions Kessy and Ross to the loser’s bracket (21-19 17-21 15-11). Then on a hot and blazing centre court they did the same with Russia’s Ukolova and Khomyakova (21-15 15-21 17-15).
In both matches their serve was their biggest weapon. ’’We did not play our best, but they won because they served really well’’, Ross said. ’’We tried to serve as hard but ours would go out a lot. Their attack was also very aggressive and they were hard to stop.’’
Top seeded out
Top seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler withdrew from the tournament during their first match in the loser’s bracket against Japan’s Ayumi Kusano and Mutsumi Ozaki. Semmler was too exhausted from a combination of the heat and stomach flu.
The semifinals of the Bangsaen Thailand Open are scheduled for 15.30 and 16.30 on the centre court at the Laem Than Pier. The matches in the loser’s bracket start at 9.00. The bronze medal match and the final are played on Sunday at 15.30 and 16.30.
Bangsaen, a beach resort located 85 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, is hosting the World Tour for the first time. All previous six editions of the Thai women’s only event were held at Phuket.
The Bangsaen Thailand Open is the final event on the 2012 women’s World Tour calendar. The men already finished in August after the Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki.