Xue/X. Y. Xia confidently take Phuket Open gold
Xue/X. Y. Xia never allowed USA’s Emily Day and Summer Ross to find the play that had brought them to the medal match, taking the gold in only 36 minutes 2-0 (21-16, 21-18). A sensational match from X. Y. Xia, at just sixteen years old, complemented Xue perfectly who takes gold in Phuket for a third time.
In the bronze medal match Brazilian’s Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg faced Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli. Maria Clara/Carol’s skill in bringing the ball back into play from every angle secured the bronze in another two set finish 2-0 (21-18, 24-22).
X. Y. Xia shines
X. Y. Xia appeared to have springs as she bounced around the court serving up cross court smash after smash which stopped Day/Ross in their tracks. USA managed to find the open court for some well-appointed Day hits that kept the score level in the first set 11-11, but incredible Chinese teamwork began to run away with it and ended the first, 21-16.
The second was more evenly matched with Day/Ross finding confidence, but X. Y. Xia continued to deliver that unstoppable smash. USA saved two match points, first thanks to Day and then a tip over Xue at the net by Ross, but it was the signature cross court X. Y. Xia slam that secured the gold for China.
“We are so excited, it’s almost our last tournament of the year. It’s very great to play here and it’s our lucky place,” said Xue.
I must say Xinyi played very well and she created a new history in a Chinese team, as she is the youngest at just sixteen years old and she made her first gold medal, so I’m very proud of her.”
“It was a good experience for me and I played every ball very seriously which helped the result,” said X. Y. Xia.
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 tournament together. After finishing ninth in Xiamen Grand Slam last week, the pair had little expectation entering Phuket.
“We were preparing for this match, just to be in no rush and don’t think too much just do our best,” said Xue.
We just thought we would get into the top eight, so this is our best record. After we got through to the semifinal, we hadn’t thought about it before.”
Despite professing their desire for gold, the silver medal is Day/Ross’s best result and first ever podium finish. The pair has also only been in the final four once before when they finished fourth at Long Beach Grand Slam this year.
“We wanted the gold obviously, but proud that we had such a great finish this tournament,” said Day.
They played an awesome match and really did well against us, so we couldn’t do too much.”
“I thought they were a great team and there’s just a lot to learn from them. They’re great,” said Ross.
I can’t believe that girl’s sixteen, come on, how is that possible? She’s good.”
Day/Ross have played in seven tournaments together since teaming up at the beginning of the year, and with Ross being the only player to win gold medals at the U19 and U21 World Championships in the same season, the pair are beginning to reach their potential.
“We really wanted a medal. That has been our goal all year, to earn an FIVB medal so I guess we achieved our goal, but obviously we want gold,” said Day.
This was our last tournament this season so we’re into off-season now and we’ll rest, regroup and get ready for next year.”
Maria Clara/Carol take bronze in Phuket for a second time after taking home the medal in 2010, and this becomes the eleventh bronze the pair has earned at senior level. In the bronze medal match, it was familiar faces all round for the Brazilians Maria Clara/Carol and Agatha/Antonelli.
It was a close affair in the first set with some outstanding rallies and well-read defence from both teams, but a couple of service errors by Agatha/Antonelli followed by a hit down the line from Maria Clara ended the first set 21-18.
Agatha did a great job of utilising any open court, powering the ball into the space allowing Agatha/Antonelli a four point lead until Maria Clara/Carol caught up at 13-13. From there it was a battle to the end with Carol serving into the net at match point. She quickly made up for it, booking the bronze with a cross court smash.
“We’re happy for sure because we still get to be on the podium,” said Maria Clara.
We still had the feeling of the semifinal against China inside of us and it’s been a hard week for us. I got sick, a lot of players did, but I’m glad that we went through all of this together and we showed how strong we could be together even when we have problems. Carol was amazing she supported me the whole week bringing me food and I was just in the room resting as much as I could.”
“They are an amazing team, Maria and Agatha. We know each other very well, we practice together, so we knew that would be a tough match and it’s so hot here. We love to play here and for me it’s really special, when I’m not feeling great I look at the sea and the sun and the crowds and it’s very special. They supported us a lot,” said Carol.
Maria Clara/Carol complete the season with one gold, two silver and now three bronze medals after a year off in 2012 for Carol’s maternity leave.
“It’s the last tournament of the FIVB for us so it’s nice to be on the podium, we’re pretty happy. I’m more excited to start next year, it was so nice this year, for sure it was our best year, so I’m looking forward to playing even better next year,” said Carol.
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.
The final FIVB Open of the season will be held in Durban, South Africa from 11 to 15 December.
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