USA's Day/Ross eye gold at the Phuket Open
Day/Ross were the first semifinal in Phuket, where they faced Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli in an evenly matched showdown. Given half a chance Day powerfully finished almost every ball that came her way and paired with Ross’s placement control, the USA finally took the match 2-1 (21-19, 20-22, 15-12).
Going for gold
Meeting Brazil’s Agatha/Antonelli is never going to be an easy task. No one could argue with the balls from Brazil that earned them the second set. However, it was another of Day’s strong slams that gave USA their ticket to the final and becomes Day/Summer’s best ever result, finishing fourth in the Long Beach Grand Slam.
“We feel pretty awesome, on cloud nine. I mean it’s so really hot out here we’re just trying to get through each match and play each point,” said Day.
“It was so hard, the sun was beating down, but I don’t know somehow we pulled it out. We had some good setting in transition and that really helped us,” said Ross.
We’re so stoked, we wanted to end the season on a high and this is it,”
Day/Ross had a challenging match in the morning to reach the semifinal, against Rimke Braakman and Jantine van der Vlist from the Netherlands. The USA was slow to find their rhythm taking the match to three sets 2-1 (18-21, 21-19, 15-8).
“That was another hard long match, we went three with the Netherlands, they’re a great team they played really hard. It’s just an absolute fight every time we play,” said Day.
Day/Ross now face Xue/X. Y. Xia in the final on Sunday and have only one outcome in mind.
“We had a goal coming here to win gold so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Day
Xue back in Phuket
In the second semifinal, Xue/X. Y. Xia met Brazil’s Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg in another very even match-up, each team answering the other with similar force and determination 2-1 (21-16, 17-21, 20-18).
The end of the first set was dominated by China who streaked ahead from 16-16 to end the set 21-16. In the second, some huge Xue blocks and amazing Brazilian saves made it unclear which way the set would swing, but Carol’s block of X. Y. Xia closed the set for Brazil 21-17.
Some beautifully placed balls by Maria Clara helped a run of points midway through the third, but strong play by X.Y.Xia took the set to match point. Unfazed, Brazil replied each match point all the way to 20-18 with an unfortunate ball out.
Chen Xue has won gold in Phuket twice before, in 2006 and 2011 with partner Zhang Xi, but joins Xia Xinyi in Phuket in only their second outing together after finishing ninth in Xiamen Grand Slam last week.
“I am the older girl in our team. Xinyi is the new girl and we don’t have much experience with the two of us playing together. We just play one ball by one ball and if we lost we didn’t think too much,” said Xue.
It is so hot here and China is already colder now. But we are just like everybody else here and I’m OK with that.”
Of course Phuket is a lucky place for us, for China.”
X.Y.Xia is only sixteen year old and playing her first season of beach volleyball this year.
“I am like a student of Xue Chen and I am learning from her. I need to work on improving myself and also our teamwork. I need to work to learn more because I haven’t been playing for very long,” said X.Y.Xia.
“I think our partnership will be better and better. We still have a lot of problems to solve, but we are optimistic,” said Xue.
The Chinese pair are ready to face Day/Ross in the final on Sunday and Xue/X. Y. Xia are as determined as the USA.
“We will fight to the end,” said Xue.
The bronze medal is guaranteed for Brazil in Phuket as Agatha/Antonelli and Maria Clara/Carol will be the first match on court on Sunday at 15:35 local time.
Thailand has hosted over 10 women’s and one men’s FIVB tournament. Overall, the USA has been the most successful with 10 medal finishes in the seven FIVB World Tour events held in Phuket.
The tournament previously ran from 2006 until 2011, when the event moved to Bangsaen in 2012. China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi won the 2011 edition, while Jennifer Kessy and April Ross were victorious in 2012.
Phuket is an island located to the south of Thailand, while the city of Phuket is the island’s capital and home to 75,000 people. It is located 825 kilometres from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.