China's Xue/Zhang on track for another medal in Moscow
Having already won two titles this year, in Brasilia and Shanghai, the Chinese seem one of the top contenders for a medal at the fifth consecutive Moscow Grand Slam. But the girls were not happy after their 21-20 21-18 victory over European vice-champions Maria Tsiartsiani and Vasiliki Arvaniti from Greece.
Xue: ‘’We had a lot of problems today. The setting was very difficult because of the wind. Right now we are not performing at our best. So we need to focus on every point. But Moscow is still our lucky place, twice gold and one bronze medal, so who knows.’’
Also bothered by the wind were European champions Sanne Keizer and Marleen van Iersel from the Netherlands. Until Saturday they had not lost any set, but were forced into a tiebreak by 12th seeded Australians Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer. Hard-hitting and hard serving Bawden took optimal advantage of the strong wind at the outskirts of the Victory Park. The ‘Aussies’ secured the match at 21-18 15-21 15-12 and with two earlier wins comfortably eased into second round, equalizing their best Grand Slam finish so far.
Keizer and Van Iersel had to play in the first elimination round in the evening, another three setter against Swiss Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr. But this time the Dutch won: 21-16 11-21 15-8.
Surprisingly another Dutch team did end on top of their pool unbeaten. Young Madelein Meppelink (22) and Sophie van Gestel (20), seeded only 24th, won their final pool match against Karla Borger and Britta Büthe 21-18 21-15 and earned a bye in the first single elimination round.
‘’For us the victory over 8th seeded Cicolari/Menegatti yesterday was very important. But winning all three gets us a bye in the first round and is also great.’’ The Dutch team will try to qualify for the Olympics through the Continental Cup final June 22-24, but also need to meet the national federation criteria. ‘’We need to place at least 5th at a grand slam, we were close in Beijing with 9th place. So tomorrow is going to be very nerve-racking.’’ The Dutch seem to have a good chance against 22nd seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler in the second round.
Also cruising through directly into second round were Brazil’s second seeded Larissa França and Juliana Felisberta en third seeded Talita Antunes and Maria Antonelli, USA’s Jennifer Kessy and April Ross (4th) and title defenders Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh (6th) and 7th seeded Czech team Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova.
A total of sixteen teams will start in second round on Sunday. The women will play two rounds of single elimination to determine the final four of the fifth consecutive Moscow Grand Slam. The semifinals and final are scheduled for Monday. Last year May-Treanor and Walsh beat Larissa and Juliana in the final. Xue and Zhang won the bronze medal.