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Japanese Women’s Team Earns Sanya Main Draw Berth

Mutsumi Ozaki (left) and Ayumi Kusano of Japan celebrate thier first Main Draw advancement Wednesday at the Sanya Open

Sanya, China, October 28, 2009 - Teams from seven countries advanced here Wednesday from the women’s Qualification Tournament to the Main Draw of this week’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour where a team from Japan earned their first-ever “money” round appearance.

Ayumi Kusano and Mutsumi Ozaki won a pair of qualifying matches Wednesday to give Japan two Beach Volleyball tandems in the Main Draw of the US$380,000 Sanya Open presented by Olympic Bay.  Hiromi Suzuki and Shinako Tanaka earned a Main Draw spot for Japan due to their technical ranking.

Kusano and Ozaki, who will be competing in their first-ever SWATCH FIVB World Tour Main Draw after failing to qualify in four previous events this season, defeated teams from Norway and Spain Wednesday.  The Japanese’s second win was a 14-21, 21-19 and 15-11 victory in 55 minutes over top-seeded Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez Steiner of Spain.

“We are pleased that we were able to finally win a match in the last round of qualifying to advance,” said Kusano.  “The Spaniards had eliminated us in Seoul earlier this season in three sets, so we are happy that we were able to reverse that result today.  We did not give up after losing the first set.  We have been training hard and today’s wins will really help our confidence.”

Tenth-seeded Xitlali Herrera and Rosario Reyes denied Japan a third team in the “money” rounds as the Mexicans upset seventh-seeded Miwa Asao and Takemi Nishibori to advance to their fourth SWATCH FIVB World Tour Main Draw.  After defeating a team from host China, Herrera and Reyes posted a 13-21, 21-19 and 18-16 win in 56 minutes over Asao and Takemi.

With one team already in the Main Draw (Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel), The Netherlands gained two more berths Wednesday with qualifying wins by fourth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marloes Wesselink and sixth-seeded Danielle Remmers/Sophie van Gestel.

Also advancing to the “money” rounds of the women’s Sanya Open were second-seeded Brink-Abeler/Claudia Lehmann of Germany, third-seeded Svitlana Baburina/Galyna Osheyko of the Ukraine, fifth-seeded Lucy Boulton/Denise Johns of Great Britain and eighth-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti of Italy.

The second annual Sanya Open is being played on the courts in front of the Hai Po Resort on Sanya Bay.  Renowned for its tropical climate and a popular tourist destination, Sanya is also the site for training of the Chinese national Beach Volleyball team.  The competition also features men’s competition where opening Main Draw matches were played Wednesday.

With the Sanya Open being the last men’s event this season, the women will conclude their competition calendar next week at the Thailand resort city of Phuket (November 3-8 on Karon Beach).  The second annual Sanya Open is the 12th and final double gender event on the $7.2-million SWATCH FIVB World Tour that started nearly six months ago in Brazil.

The men’s semi-finals will be played Friday followed by the medal matches Saturday.  The women’s “final four” matches will be played Sunday as the winning teams on the weekend will split the $30,000 first-place prizes.

Mutsumi Ozaki and Ayumi Kusano of Japan celebrate


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