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New world champs off to perfect start in Gstaad

Chen Xue (left) and Zhang Xi showed no ill effects from winning the World Championships
Gstaad, Switzerland, July 11, 2013 – Newly crowned world champions Chen Xue and Zhang Xi showed no signs of a drop off in form as they completed pool play at the Gstaad Grand Slam on Thursday with an unbeaten record.

After two three-set wins on the opening day on Wednesday, they needed only two to beat the Netherlands’ Sanne Keizer and Marleen van Iersel 2-0 (21-15, 21-15).

It was in stark contrast to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013, when they finished third in their pool after slipping to a loss in their second match. 

“Last week in the World Championships we lost one match and finished third in the pool, but now we are first in the pool so I think we have improved,” Xue said.

The pair’s win at Mazury 2013 was their first major title after bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the Rome 2011 World Championships. 

While they started slowly in Poland they came through in ferocious fashion in the latter stages and appear to have brought that form with them to Gstaad. 

“We have more confidence and it is a sort of release,” Xue added. “In the World Championships there was some pressure, both for us and our coach. 

“Now we are in a Grand Slam. We have found some things we want to improve on and we want to do it better than last week.”

Ross and Walsh into knockout rounds unbeaten

April Ross and Kerri Walsh needed to dig deep to fight back against Maria Clara and Carolina Salgado and win 2-1 (19-21, 21-12, 15-10) to reach the elimination rounds with three wins from three. 

The Brazilian sisters made life hard early on for Ross and Walsh, but they kept calm, drew level in the second set and took control of the third early on to win the match.

“It feels like we’re zig and zagging,” triple Olympic champion Walsh said. “We know it is going to be a challenge, but so long as you are steady in your head your physical stuff will catch up.

“I said we were going to win the whole game. We were up in set one, but then I gave away easy points at the end. They are relentless; they are amazing players and they just keep the pressure on and that is what happened at the end of the first set. I let up a bit and instead of attacking them, I let them attack me.”

The match was only Walsh’s third on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour after she returned from giving birth to her third child in April. 

She and Ross are playing together for the first time as a team in Gstaad. London 2012 silver medallist Ross will return to her long-term partner Jennifer Kessy for the Long Beach Grand Slam from July 22-27, in which Walsh is due to play alongside Whitney Pavlik. Then towards the end of 2013 Ross and Walsh will go fulltime and through to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games as a team. 

On the opening day of the tournament the pair beat Dutch duo Jantine van der Vlist and Marloes Wesselink and Austria’s Barbara Hansel and Katharina Schutzenhofer, but can see immediate improvement on day two.  

“I think the consistency is better,” Walsh said. “We scored a lot more points on defence and that is a sign that we are gelling more. Yesterday it was all about side-out and we didn’t score that many points.”

The Gstaad Grand Slam is the fifth Grand Slam of 10 on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The tournament began with women’s qualifying on Tuesday July 9 and ends with women’s and men’s medal matches on Sunday July 14.

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