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Top four seeds play semifinals Moscow Grand Slam

Brazil's Juliana Felisberta Da Silva (right) and Larissa Franca had a hard time in their quarterfinal match against Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr
Moscow, Russia, July 15, 2011 – The top four seeds of the 2011 FIVB Swatch Moscow Grand Slam all reached the semi-finals in the Russian capital on Friday. First seeded Juliana Felisberta Da Silva and Larissa Franca will play defending champions Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, while two time olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh meet third seeded Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti Saturday. The medal matches are scheduled for the evening.

World Tour leaders Juliana Felisberta da Silva/Larissa Franca, who finished third last year, got quite a scare in the quarterfinal at the Poklonnaya Gora centre court. In the morning they had eliminated Dutch team Sanne Keizer/Marleen van Iersel in two sets (21-17 21-16), but their second match was not so easy. Swiss Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr took the first set by surprise and in the third even had chances to win the game. The Brazilians, that had to fight hard to come back, simply were more experienced in the end and won eventually 16-21 21-16 15-13. After the final point, Juliana seemed very relieved and spontaneously kissed the nearest ball retriever. “We had lots of problems with their serving in the first set”, Juliana said. “But in the second set I opened my eyes and in the third we just played point-by-point, especially Larissa. I am not happy about this game, but I am happy that we reached the semi-finals. We just have to forget this game and focus on tomorrow. We want to give the Russian audience a present, because they are always so nice to us and cheer us on. We like coming to Moscow.”

Second seeded May-Treanor/Walsh eliminated the only remaining Russian team in the tournament Evgenia Ukolova/Ekaterina Khomyakova in just 29 minutes (21-17 21-7). The Americans secured their place in the semi-finals with a 21-15 21-17 win over Katrien Gielen en Liesbeth Mouha. The new Belgium team (28th seed) just started playing together this season. It was the first time Gielen reached a main draw on the World Tour. They now finished fifth, which is even the best World Tour finish ever for Mouha. She used to play with Liesbet Van Breedam, but Van Breedam got pregnant and had other plans. “We lost, but I am happy. This is my first fifth place! I am keeping her”, Mouha joked to her new partner.

Last year’s gold medallists Chen Xue and Xi Zhang from China had an easy second round, winning 21-14 21-14 in 33 minutes against America’s Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson. The fourth seeded Asian girls also sent of Brazil’s Talita Antunes and Maria Antonelli (21-18 21-17) in their quarterfinal.

Third seeded and upcoming Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti eased by the Brazilian Salgado-sisters Maria Clara and Carolina (21-16 21-15) in the morning, leading the head-to-head series 3-0 now. In an exciting game on centre court the explosive Italians also beat Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig in three sets (21-17 14-21 15-12), taking 50 minutes. Their match against May-Treanor/Walsh will be a rematch of last week’s quarterfinal in Gstaad, which was won by the Italians. They eventually finished third in the Swiss Grand Slam.

Last year, in the 2010 Moscow Grand Slam final Xue/Zhang defeated Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. The Americans did not return to Moscow this year due to injury. Juliana/Larissa were the bronze medallists. The winners of the women’s tournament will split $43,500, the second team $29,500 and the bronze duo wins $23,000.

Russia hosted seven previous women’s World Tour events, no home team ever won a medal. This is the fourth consecutive grand slam in Moscow since 2008. In 1994, 2005, 2006 and 2007 the FIVB Swatch World Tour visited St. Petersburg.

After the Moscow Grand Slam, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour leaves Europe for North America in a double-gender Open in Québec, Canada from July 19-24. The following week, the tour returns to Europe for the final two double-gender Grand Slams in Stare Jablonski, Poland from July 25-31 and Klagenfurt, Austria from August 1-7.

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