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Kessy and Ross hit their stride as women get underway at Berlin smart Grand Slam

Jennifer Kessy (left) and April Ross topped their pool at the end of the first day of the women's main draw
Berlin, Germany, August 8, 2013 – A year to the day that they won silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Jennifer Kessy and April Ross made a winning start to the Berlin smart Grand Slam on Thursday. 

First up they faced Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug and won 2-0 (21-10, 21-9), then returned to court in the early evening to beat Finnish sisters Erika and Emilia Nystrom with another 2-0 (21-12, 21-16) victory.

“It felt really good,” Ross said. “We like this city, we like this tournament, the site is awesome and I think we felt good in Long Beach playing in the World Series Cup and I think we’re trying to carry that on today.”

An injury to Jennifer Kessy interrupted the pair’s progress this season and Ross played with Whitney Pavlik at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships and finished fourth. She then played alongside triple Olympic-champion Kerri Walsh at the Gstaad Grand Slam in a partnership that will start anew later in 2013.

Kessy returned to action with Ross at the Long Beach Grand Slam and the duo then won the World Series Cup that ran in tandem with the Grand Slam. 

A year ago the pair were enjoying their highest-profile success when they won silver at London 2012, though it wasn’t on their minds as they got their campaign underway in Berlin.
“We had someone email us the youtube clip and stuff like that. The first thing I thought was ‘I can’t believe it’s been a whole year’,” Kessy said. 

“This one was a little bit bitter-sweet,” Ross said about the loss to Walsh and Misty May-Treanor in the London final. 

“Yesterday was our big anniversary because it was when we beat the Brazilians (Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca) in the semifinals, though it was awesome to get that silver medal.”

Home favourites forced to dig deep

Germany’s leading pair Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler were made to fight to finish the day with two wins from two.

They needed to beat the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova, who were also chasing a second win and were made to battle for a 2-1 (21-16, 16-21, 15-12) victory. 

“We have a really tough pool considering we were seeded number one and we didn’t really know the Russian team (Alexandra Shiryaeva and Ekaterina Syrtseva),” Holtwick said.

“The Czechs are seeded three in the pool and they are a really good team, maybe because they have had some bad results that they were seeded number three. We knew it would be a tough day and we are really happy that we have won two out of two.”

A year ago Holtwick and Semmler were the best performing German team in Berlin when they finished fourth. Since then they have won six FIVB medals, the most recent being the bronze at the Long Beach Grand Slam.

They nearly matched that result at the European Championships in Klagenfurt, Austria, but lost to fellow Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst in the bronze-medal match. 

“We really had fun, but we’d run out of power on Saturday,” Holtwick added. “Of course when you reach the semis, for sure you want to win a medal, but with the trip to Long Beach the week before we were really tired.”

The Berlin smart Grand Slam is the seventh Grand Slam on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, which is comprised of 10 Grand Slam events and the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. There are also eight Open events and while they are not part of the World Tour, they still count towards the FIVB World Rankings and help open the door for development of the sport. 

The tournament concludes with the women’s gold and bronze medal matches on Sunday August 11, while the men’s medal matches take place on Saturday August 10. 

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