China’s Xue/Xia eye another gold at the Durban Open
In the final they play another German team, Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude, for the gold. They won 2-1 (21-16 24-26 15-12) against USA’s Jennifer Kessy and Whitney Pavlik.
After an early start at 6.00, the semifinals and finals were rescheduled for Saturday due to Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Sunday, Xue and Xia defeated Russia’s Ukolova/Prokopeva (21-13 19-21 15-10) and Kohler/Schumacher from Germany (21-11 23-21) to reach the semifinals.
The first set against the young German team, who won silver at the Anapa Open this year, was point by point until China created a gap at 20-17. In the second Mersmann and U23 world champion Schneider started making mistakes. China earned their first match point at 20-14 and at 20-15 Xia finished the game with a smart dink over the German block.
“We did not think we could come this far”, Xue said. “Because it was the first time we had to play at 6.00 in the morning. So far we already played three games today. It’s a new challenge.”
The Chinese pair only teamed up two events ago when Xue’s former partner Zhang Xi took a break from beach volleyball. Xia is only 16 year old, still goes to school and only started playing beach volleyball two years ago.
“Our partnership is getting better, right now we are better than Xiamen and Thailand. We try to find our rhythm and when we do the results are always good.”
Germany fights off comeback Americans
The other semifinal was a more thrilling one. After Laboureur and Sude took the first set 21-16 and were on the verge of claiming the victory Kessy and Pavlik made an amazing comeback. The Americans countered eight match points and took the set at their first set point (26-24). They could not repeat this masterpiece in the tiebreak though: 15-12.
“It was not easy to get into this tournament”, Sude said. “Because there are so many German teams now. So we had to take our chance. And that’s what we did today.”
In the morning they defeated Greece’s Arvaniti/Karagkouni (21-18 21-19) and Russia’s Moiseeva/Syrtseva (21-17 21-13) and already reached their best career result ever.
“We got a bit nervous in the second set”, Laboureur said about the many unforced errors they made at the end of that set. “But we are a good team, when one is not so sure the other one takes over.”
About their next opponent Sude said: “We lost in the pool against China, very close, we wanted revenge, so now let’s do it.”
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