Women’s pool play opens with great play, some upsets at FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam
São Paulo, Brazil, October 9, 2013 – While four of the five top-seeded women’s teams won both of their pool play matches Wednesday, the big surprise was five lower-seeded teams all winning twice as well to lead or tie for the lead in their respective pools during Wednesday’s start of the 32-team main draw at the $440,000 FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam double-gender tournament marking the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour’s return to Brazil for the 27th consecutive year.
While the men’s teams played one of three pool play matches on Wednesday, the lower-seeded women’s double surprise winners were: Canada’s 27th-seeded Jamie Lynn Broder/Kristina Valjas, Switzerland’s 22nd-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré, USA’s 15th-seeded Lauren Fendrick/Brittany Hochevar, Slovak Republic’s 16th-seeded Dominika Nestarcova/Natalia Dubovcova and Czech Republic’s 14th-seeded Marketa Slukova/Kristyna Kolocova.
With the third and final round of women’s pool play Thursday, the women will play their final pool play match to determine the 24 teams in each gender who advance to Friday’s start of single elimination. For the women on Wednesday, four of the five top-seeded teams all won their opening matches, four in two sets as the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour resumed in South America this week. Following the completion of Pool Play on Thursday, the single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams in each gender begins on Friday morning.
Following Thursday’s conclusion of pool play, Friday will see the round of 24, round of 16 and quarterfinal matches in each gender as the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour has resumed in South America after a six-week respite. With the event being held for the first time in São Paulo the purpose-built site is located on the expansive grounds of Parque Villa Lobos on the west side of the massive city.
The list of undefeated women’s teams grew to 14 when the final whistle blew after the final matches of the day were played under the lights on two courts.
The top-seeded teams pacing the way with 2-0 are Brazil’s top-seeded Taiana Lima/Talita Antunes, Brazil’s second-seeded sisters Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Salgado, Germany’s fourth-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler and Germany’s fifth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst.
Besides the five lower-seeded teams and the four top-five seeds, also undefeated were Brazil’s seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Maria Antonelli, Netherlands’ eighth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel, Spain’s ninth-seeded Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo, USA’s 10th-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, and 13th-seeded Marleen Van Iersel/Sanne Keizer.
Not necessarily a surprise, but winning both their matches to lead their pool is USA’s new-team featuring the Olympic pair of Ross/Walsh Jennings who are playing in just their second FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event after Olympic careers with different teammates. Ross won the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics with Jennifer Kessy while Walsh Jennings won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 London Olympic Games with former teammate Misty May-Treanor. Kessy has scaled back her schedule but is continuing to play some domestically while May-Treanor formally retired after winning her third Olympic Gold Medal with Walsh Jennings. Walsh Jennings is also returning after a six-month layoff while she gave birth to her third child.
Commented Walsh Jennings after her first match Wednesday, “I feel really great. It’s been six months since I had my baby (third of three). I feel ready to be on the FIVB World Tour right now. I’m with April (Ross) full time and it just feels right. I do feel more motivated. I took a long time off and it makes me really hungry to play and get better. My whole situation is new now. I left my children at home with other family members, the game I’m playing is different, I have a different body, I have a different brain. We’re learning a lot of things right now and that’s really refreshing.”
This year’s FIVB World Tour Grand Slams use a pool format. São Paulo began with a one-day qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in each gender’s 32-team main draw tournaments followed by round-robin pool play where pools of four are playing three matches each with a single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams (the top three from each pool) concluding semifinals and bronze medal matches on Saturday and the gold medal matches for both genders on Sunday. The gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam will each split $33,000, the silver $22,000, the bronze $16,500 and fourth place $12,900.
Brazil had one team in each gender advance from Tuesday’s qualifiers and the home country has its full allotment of five teams in each gender in the São Paulo main draw. For the women, the qualification team that advanced was Elize Secomandi/Fernanda Alves. Overall, the Brazilian women’s teams opened pool play with a combined 7-3 record.
Brazil’s top-seeded Lima/Antunes won both of their matches in two sets, needing 32 minutes to defeat France’s 32nd-seeded Laura Longuet/Melinda Adelin, 21-14, 21-12 and 36 minutes to overcome Australia’s 17th-seeded Taliqua Clancy/Louise Bawden, 21-17, 21-16.
Antunes reflected on her team’s season and this tournament, saying, “The first match is always the most expected one. We were anxious for playing at home. This time, the FIVB World Tour didn’t start here, as it usually does. So we came home with good results, and that gives us a good feeling. It is in the first match that we start to trail our path to the final. We played well even we didn’t know much about the other team in the first match. The second match was closer because the Australians are more experienced and we have seen each other play often on the world tour.”
The FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam marks the 35th time that Brazil has hosted a men’s and 30th time Brazil has hosted a women’s FIVB international beach volleyball world tour event. Brazil has staged a FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event every year since the start of the international circuit for men in 1987 and women in 1992. It is also the 295th FIVB World Tour men’s tournament and 257th women’s tournament.
The 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is comprised of 10 Grand Slam events and the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. Not part of the World Tour but counting towards FIVB points/earnings are five Open events (four double-gender tournaments and one women-only). The last of 10 FIVB World Tour Grand Slams will be the 2013 Grand Slam schedule will now end in China Oct. 22-27 at the double-gender $440,000 FIVB Xiamen Grand Slam.