Home favorites Xue/Xia crash out of Shanghai Grand Slam
Shanghai, China, May 2, 2014 – Reigning world champion Xue Chen and her teenager partner Xia Xinyi crashed out of the US$800,000 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Shanghai Grand Slam after dropping two matches in a row here on Friday.
The ninth-seeded Xue/Xia lost to the Netherlands' Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel 2-1 (21-12, 16-21, 15-13) in a last round pool H match before being knocked out by Summer Ross/Emily Day of the United States 2-0 (21-18, 24-22) Friday afternoon in the first round of the women's single elimination stage.
Trailing by one set, Xue/Xia fought back to take an narrow lead most of the way in the second set against Ross/Day, but the Americans steadily pulled it back at 18-all before running off four of the last five points to secure the victory and a berth in the women's top 16 round.
"We know we have a lot to improve," said Xue, who started to pair with Xia at the end of last season after winning the gold medal with Zhang Xi at the World Championships in Poland in July. "The bronze medal in Fuzhou was kind of surprise to me, we have to work really hard to play well together."
The 17-year-old Xia was struggling with her reception in the two losses, especially the match against Meppelink/Van Iersel. "I think we have a lot of service pressure that was in our advantage, so we played a clean game," said Van Iersel.
Despite the losses, Xue was confident in the future of the new combination. "We are a new team and we got a long way to go," Xue said. "Xia has improved very quickly and we just need more time and more games."
Australian qualifiers Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho secured their best finish in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour as they rallied past Russia's Evgenia Ukolova/Maria Prokopeva 2-1 (13-21, 22-20, 15-9) Friday morning for their fifth straight win in the Shanghai Grand Slam and a spot in the women's top 16 round.
With two victories in the qualification tournament and three more in the round robin pool play, Artacho/Laird, who were seeded 31st in the 32-team Main Draw, earned a bye in the first round of the knock-out stage as the surprising winners of pool B over Germany's second seeds Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst.
Artacho attributed the come-from-behind victory to her teammate. "It was tough, you know, but Nicky was so supportive, she really pushed me alone," she said. "I was really slow at the beginning of it. Obviously Nicky was great teammate right there, she did really well."
Having made sure a ninth finish in their first Grand Slam event together, the dark horses remained to be calm and cool. "It's pretty exciting, but it's just taking one step at a time for us at the moment," said Laird. "It's exciting to have that guaranteed, but we still got one game to go. We'll take it game by game, point by point."
Top seeds Talita Da Rocha Antunes/Taiana Lima and sixth seeds Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas from Brazil and Fuzhou Open champions Kerri Walsh and April Ross of the United States also advanced to the top 16 round directly after winning three straight matches in pool play. Juliana Felisberta Silva and Maria Antonelli of Brazil withdrew from Friday morning's last round pool match due to an existing injury of Antonelli, but still went to the women's top 16 round as pool E winners with a 2-1 win-loss record and points ratio advantage.
The 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar features a record purse of US$10.2 million with a season that extends from late April to mid-December competing at 21 venues in 18 countries. This year’s FIVB World Tour includes a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Finale and 11 FIVB Open Tournaments throughout the world, helping expand the door for development of the sport even further.
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