China’s Li Jian and Hali Kejian lead Pool C at Asian Beach Volleyball Championship
Li Jian and Hali Kejiang were first on centre court at Wuhan Olympic Sports Complex and played Alex Chan Chi Wai and Kam Lung Chui from Hong Kong. Having transferred to the beach from volleyball, Chan Chi Wai played tough at the net and helped Hong Kong to a two-point lead at 16-14 in the opening set, surprising the Chinese duo and pushing the first set all the way.
Li Jian and Hali Kejiang finally fought back with strong jump serves and blocks and closed the first set after an incredible seven-point run. The Hong Kong pair then began to struggle in the second set under continuous pressure by Li Jian, who scored heavily after numerous digs to wrap up the result 2-0 (21-18, 21-13).
“It is always difficult to play a team you’ve never met before and today I think they did pretty well,” Li Jian said. “I know blocker Alex just transferred from volleyball to the beach and he did a great job in the first set. They performed with good ball control, good blocking and good serving.
“Of course my partner Hali Kejiang is also new to international tournaments and he was also nervous at the beginning. We fell a little bit behind in the first set and then battled back to win 21-18. We are really happy to come out with a win and are looking forward to a victory in the afternoon match.”
Li Jian paired up with Hali Kejian for the first time, despite appearing in Asian and FIVB international tournaments over a number of years. He won the gold medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games and a silver medal at the 2012 Asian Beach Volleyball Championship in Haikou, China.
“This is my second international tournament in 2013 but I played with Li Jian for the first time,” said Hali Kejiang. “In the FIVB Xiamen Grand Slam, I was with Bao Jian and he paired with Wu Jiaxin. It is always exciting to team up with a beach volleyball veteran and he’s been playing since I started watching him and following him. To play with a gold medallist from the Asian Games is really amazing and I hope I will do my best so as not to disappoint him.”
In their second match, Li Jian and Hali Kejiang crushed Raja Nazmi Saifuddin Bin Raja Hussin and Mohd Aizzat Bin Mohd Zokri of Malaysia in straight sets 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) in 29 minutes to lead the pool with two wins. They will now meet fourth seeds Sukto Prathip and Sangkhachot Sittichai of Thailand on Friday, vying for the top position of Pool C that will give a better seeding in the second phase of the single-elimination bracket.
The tournament’s top-seeded Dyachenko Alexandr and Sidorenko Alexey of Kazakhstan quickly found their feet in the opening match of Pool A and beat Bahman Gholipoury and Salemi Bahman from Iran 2-0 (21-19, 21-16).
In the women’s tournament, China’s 11th-seeded Wang Fan and Zheng Yixin had a tough match against sixth seeds Mariafe Artacho and Nicole Laird, but defeated the Australians to lead Pool C. Artacho and Laird went ahead 11-7 and from there it was a battle for the lead. After several long rallies, the Aussies made a few errors and lost the first set. The second set proved equally close, but a well-placed shot by Zheng helped the Chinese win the match 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) in 38 minutes.
The pool play will finish on Friday afternoon followed by a drawing of lots in Wuhan Olympic Sports Complex to determine the seeds for the Round of 16 that will be played in single-elimination format starting from Saturday morning.
The Asian Beach Volleyball Championship previously ran from 2009 until 2012 in the harbour city of Haikou, China, before moving to Wuhan in central China.