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Nystrom sisters shock first seeds with two-set victory

Erika and Emilia Nystrom (right) were at their best against Chen Xue and Zhang Xi
Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 2, 2013 – Erika and Emilia Nystrom pulled off the first major upset of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013 when they earned a 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) win over first seeds Chen Xue and Zhang Xi on day two of the women’s tournament on Tuesday.

The Finnish twins started in determined mood and quickly put the first seeds on the backfoot. They didn’t slow down after winning the first set and built on the momentum to nullify the threat of Chen Xue at the net and keep Zhang Xi occupied at the back of the court. 

“We played really good and China haven’t been in Europe, so maybe they are not in the best shape, but we did our job well,” Erika Nystrom said. “We made our tactics, we took defensive points and we had a good serve. China wasn’t the best today, but we beat them and are really happy.”

The Chinese pair have missed the past three FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Grand Slams – in Corrientes, The Hague and Rome – as they were competing in the Chinese National Games. 

It meant that Xue and Zhang Xi have not had time to adapt to the cooler conditions in Poland, having played in Nanjing’s hot and humid climate during the Chinese National Games and the Nystroms were quick to take advantage.

“Because they haven’t been in the tournament we thought they might not be in great shape, so we said ‘let’s try our best’, and we really imposed our own game and took our chances,” Erika Nystrom added. “That said I think China will be really good in the rest of the tournament.”

Austrians at the double

Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger were another pair of sisters who had something to celebrate, after they won their second match in two to give themselves the chance of topping the pool and avoiding the first knockout round. 

The Austrian’s enjoyed a tough contest against Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley, but prevailed 2-1 (13-21, 21-15, 15-13) to leave them needing a win over Russia’s Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova to top the pool, despite their preparations for Mazury 2013 not fully going to plan. 

“In Norway we prepared for freezing weather and then we had 30 degrees for two weeks,” Doris Schwaiger said. “We were there five times before and it was always raining and freezing and we arrived with long shorts and t-shirts, so we had to go shopping and it was expensive.”

The sister-act have been one of the most consistent pairings on the World Tour and earlier this year they won silver medals at the Shanghai Grand Slam. They also reached the quarterfinals of the 2009 World Championships in Stavanger and the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, but aim to go further in Poland. 

“We will see what the future will bring,” Stefanie Schwaiger said. “We’ve been fifth before and we’ve had second place in a Grand Slam this year, so I think everything is open. However, there are many teams like us, who want to reach the semifinals. I think it is possible, but everything needs to work out perfectly.”

Spain back on track

Liliana Fernandez Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan got their campaign back on track with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-19) win over Russia’s Maria Prokopeva and Svetlana Popova after they had slipped to a loss on the opening day of the women’s competition on Monday.

The Spanish pair didn’t hang around in the first set and totally dominated, but the Russians put up more resistance in the second, but even then it wasn’t enough to stop Fernandez Steiner and Baquerizo McMillan from winning. 

“It was tough because we were playing them for the first time,” Liliana said. “We were nervous at the beginning because they were up at the beginning of the first set. On the second set they switched to me and that made me nervous and I couldn’t make my side out very well, but Elsa helped me and that shows how well our co-operation is going.”

The women’s competition continues on Wednesday with the final round of pool play, after which 32 teams, the first and second ranked in each pool and the top eight third ranked teams, advance to the elimination phase. The semifinals and medal matches are scheduled for Saturday. The men’s competition is one day behind and concludes on Sunday.

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