Defending champ Xue and Xia stunned by Japanese qualifiers at FIVB Beach Volleyball Fuzhou Open
Fuzhou, China, April 24, 2014 - Japanese qualifiers Takemi Nishibori and Sayaka Mizoe pulled off a big upset at the FIVB Beach Volleyball Fuzhou Open on Thursday when they beat defending champion Xue Chen and Xia Xinyi of China in straight sets (21-18, 29-27) in the Women's Main Draw.
In the first set the teams played point by point until Japan created a gap at 20-18 and then took the set through a powerful spike from Nishibori.
Stung into action, Xue and Xia set the pace in the second set, building a 3-1 lead. But with the Chinese pair struggling with their attacks, Japan fought back to level at 11-11. Trailing by 20-18, the Japanese took no notice of the huge crowd cheering for Xue and Xia as they saved two set points before earning their first match point at 22-21.
China then procured six more opportunities to grab the set and level the match, but it was Japan who prevailed on their second match point when Nishibori hit a spike to the sand.
"I feel very, very happy. This is a big win, and very good experience for us," said an elated Nishibori, who gave her partner a bear hug after winning the last point to celebrate.
"They (Xue/Xia) are one of the strongest teams in the world, so we didn't have pressure at all. In the match we just played our own game and had fun."
Xue, who won bronze in the 2008 Olympics and finished fourth in London 2012 in partnership with Zhang Xi, blamed poor teamwork for the defeat.
"To be frank, I didn't expect to lose in our first match," said Xue, a Fuzhou native who started to team up with Xia last season. "But we made too many errors. We need to work harder."
The top-seeded Chinese pair made hard work to escape a second defeat in the afternoon. They went down in the first set against Gemany's Teresa Mersmann and Isabel Schneider before eventually winning their second pool match 2-1 (13-21, 21-14, 15-12).
In another upset of the day, Germany's Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude, who made it to the Main Draw through the Qualification Tournament, stunned second seeds Talita Da Rocha Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil in a thrilling three-setter (22-20, 18-21, 25-23).
Set points were going back and forth in the first-to-15 third set until finally the Germans grabbed the set when Taiana Lima's spike landed wide of the sideline. The match lasted for 61 minutes, the longest so far in the tournament.
"We missed some serves at the end of the game. That's so important," said Talita. "They (Laboureur/Sude) played better than us, and they deserved to win."
Sude and Laboureur also paid tributes to their Brazilian opponents.
"The Brazilians have beach volleyball in their blood. They are very good players, very experienced. We had to play very hard to beat them," said Sude.
"It was a very hard game. They made good points, and we made good points. It was very fun to play against them. I think, both teams played very good level," said Laboureur.
Earlier in the morning, Laboureur and Sude started their Pool play with a 2-0 (23-21, 21-14) win over Tatyana Mashkova/Irina Tsimbalova of Kazakhstan.
Kerri Walsh and April Ross from the USA also went off to a perfect start in Fuzhou, winning a pair of matches to top Pool D. They overcame compatriots Hochevar/Carico 2-0 (21-14, 21-14) in the morning, before easing past Martina Bonnerova/Barbora Hermannova of Czech Republic 2-0 (21-15, 21-16) in the afternoon.
Other unbeaten teams so far in pool play are Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (Germany), Georgina Klug/Ana Gallay (Argentina), Maria Clara Salgado/Carol Solberg Salgado (Brazil), Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grobner (Germany), Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel (Netherlands), Evgenia Ukolova/Maria Prokopeva (Russia), Menegatti-Orsi Toth (Italy) and Wang Fan/Yue Yuan (China).
Pool matches continue on Friday, and 32 teams are playing a single round robin in eight groups with top three finishers from each group to advance to the 24-team knock-out stage.
Fuzhou, capital of the Fujian province lies on the southeast coast of Chinese mainland and hosts the Open event for the second straight year.
In addition to the Fuzhou Open, two other stops are scheduled in China in 2014 on the FIVB international schedule: the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam (April 29 to May 4) and the FIVB Xiamen Open (October 7 to 12). All three are double-gender events.