Paris, France, June 20, 2007 - Only one of the top eighth-seeded teams in the men’s qualifier for this week’s US$600,000 Henkel Grand Chelem advanced here Wednesday afternoon to the Main Draw in the first of five “major” events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar.
Surviving the upset string was the winner of the last men’s match in the 32-team Qualification Tournament as second-seeded Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack of Australia secured the final spot in the “money” rounds that starts Thursday morning.
The Australians, who placed fourth in the Croatian SWATCH stop two weeks ago before placing 13th last week in Portugal, avoided the string of upsets Wednesday by defeating 15th-seeded Miguel Maia and Joao Brenha 21-17 and 21-15. Athens 2004 Olympians, Schacht and Slack were playing in their first FIVB qualifier since the 2005 Austrian Grand Slam event in Klagenfurt.
“Any time you play in the qualifier, you can expect two very tough matches. It’s single-elimination play and there are no second chances,” said Slack before this week’s competition. “We played well two weeks ago in Croatia, but not so good last week in Portugal. Maybe playing two qualifying matches will get us off on the right foot this week.”
Along with the men’s opening Main Draw rounds Thursday, the women’s final pool play matches will be staged to determine the schedule for the 24-team single-elimination bracket. The third annual Henkel Grand Chelem continues through Sunday when the gold medal teams in the third of 13 double gender events on the 2007 international Beach Volleyball calendar earn the $43,500 first-place prizes.
With the Henkel Grand Chelem within walking distance of the famed Eiffel Tour, 19th-seeded Matt Fuerbringer and Sean Scott posted a pair of seed-break-throughs in the qualifier to become the fourth team from the United States in the Main Draw. Fuerbringer and Scott are now 3-0 in the competition after starting play with a country quota win Tuesday and a 21-15 and 21-17 qualifying win over third-seeded Jochem De Gruijter and Gijs Ronnes of the Netherlands.
Other teams advancing from the qualifier were ninth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Martins Plavins of Latvia, 10th-seeded Florian Gosch/Alexander Horst of Austria, 11th-seeded Jan Schnider/Marcel Gscheidle of Switzerland, 12th-seeded Kentaro Asahi/Katsuhiro Shiratori of Japan, 13th-seeded Francisco Alvarez/Leonel Munder of Cuba and 16th-seeded Shun Zhou/Jian Li of China.
After seeing the three Chinese women’s teams combine for six pool play victories Wednesday, Zhou and Li completed a perfect day for the Asians by eliminating top-seeded Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado of Brazil with a 21-17 and 28-26 win. Harley and Salgado, who advanced to the qualifier with a country quota Tuesday, won the season opening event last month in Shanghai with a bronze in Bahrain and a fourth-place in Portugal.
The Henkel Grand Chelem, which is also the part of the qualifying process for the Beijing 2008 Olympics where 24 teams per gender will be competing for the Summer Games gold medals, will also help to finalize the entry list for the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships to be played July 24-29 in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad. The $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, the second-most prestigious Beach Volleyball event on the planet behind the Olympics, will feature 48-team Main Draws for both men and women
Following the Henkel Grand Chelem, Norway hosts the next SWATCH Grand Slam stop in Stavanger next week. Berlin is the site of the third major event (July 10-15) followed by the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships. The SWATCH Grand Slam series ends the first week in August at Klagenfurt, Austria.