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Ludwig and Walkenhorst make perfect start with two wins from two in Rome

It was tough work, but Laura Ludwig (left) and Kira Walkenhorst ended the first day at the smart Grand Slam - Rome unbeaten
Rome, Italy, June 19, 2013 – Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst laid down a marker to the rest of the field at the smart Grand Slam - Rome with two wins from two on the opening day of competition, without dropping a set.

First off they defeated their fellow Germans Britta Buthe and Karla Borger 2-0 (21-10, 21-17), then silenced the Italian supporters at the Foro Italico with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) victory against home favourites Marta Menegatti and Greta Cicolari. 

“Two matches, two wins and both in two set,” Ludwig said after beating Cicolari and Menegatti. “I don’t like to play more than two sets here as it is so hot and that is why it is pretty cool that we did it in two sets.

“We put our opponents under pressure with serving and they had some trouble with passing and setting and we had some great blocks and great digs and really put them under pressure.”

Ludwig and Walkenhorst are another new partnership this year after Ludwig’s long-term partner Sara Goller retired from the sport following the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

So far their best FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour performance has been a quarterfinal finish at the Shanghai Grand Slam, but since then they have won three bronze on their national tour.

“It a big new motivation and she is doing really well after only seven months together,” Ludwig added. “I think we have really good team chemistry. We didn’t know each other before, so we’ve had to get to know each other and it is working really well. It is a lot of fun definitely.”

Double Dutch delight

Also going through the first day unbeaten were Sophie van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink. The Dutch pair enjoyed a morning victory over Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley 2-0 (21-16, 21-9) and then returned the court in the evening to beat the USA’s Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar 2-1 (21-13, 15-21, 15-11).

“The last one was not so easy, but we won and I’m happy with the two wins,” Van Gestel said. “Every week you start at the beginning and you have to win your pool matches, so today we did and tomorrow we have our last pool match and I hope we can win that one, we’ll see.”

Van Gestel and Meppelink have been two of the revelations of the World Tour so far this year after they won their first ever Grand Slam gold medals at the Corrientes Grand Slam earlier in the year.

They were unable to match those heroics on home sand a week ago at The Hague Grand Slam, but they are aiming to repeat that success this season. 

“Last week didn’t do so well, we had a ninth place and we’re happy with that,” Van Gestel said. “The tournament before we had a first and when you’ve had a first you have to deal with it. 

“We want to stay like this the whole season, but we know it will be very hard because everybody knows that we had that first position and everybody is looking at us, but we will try to get better and we will see what happens.”

The Rome Grand Slam is the fourth Grand Slam of 10 on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The competition runs from June 17 until June 23, when both the men’s and women’s finals take place. 

Following the Rome Grand Slam, the world’s leading players take a week’s break before the start of the ninth FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki from July 1-7. After the World Championships are completed the World Tour resumes the following week at the Gstaad Grand Slam in the Swiss Alps. 

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