(PR from www.fivb.org) On November 4, 2010 – As main draw action began in the final event on the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour, the three top seeds were undefeated while three lower seeded teams pulled some upsets to also post an undefeated record in their first two matches. Canadians Heather Bansley and Elizabeth Maloney highlighted the play of the underdogs, with a pair of upsets including a win over the two-time defending champs of the US$190,000 Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT.
Bansley and Maloney, seeded 26th after advancing from Wednesday’s qualification tournament, started their day with a three-set win over seventh-seeded Jen Kessy and April Ross, 21-17, 15-21, 15-11. The Americans, the defending World Champs in addition to having won the last two Phuket titles, suffered a first-round loss for just the third time in their careers, with the other two times resulting in a fifth-place and a 25th place finish. Kessy and Ross faced match point against the 23rd-seeded team from Belgium in the 25th-place match, but were able to prevail 16-14 in the third set. The Canadians then followed that match with a win against the 10th-seeded team from Thailand, of Kulna & Phokongploy, on an outer court with four television cameras rolling and a street lined with Thai fans. Friday morning Bansley and Maloney will play second-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig from Germany, having already secured their career best finish of at least a ninth.
“It’s pretty surreal to beat them; I’m speechless,” Bansley said of the match against the USA. “We took ourselves by surprise but when we were playing we felt like we were right there with them. It was really windy this morning and we got a couple of lucky breaks.” “We stayed really patient,” Maloney added. “In the second set they served us off the court but we stuck with it.”
Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez Steiner are trying to repeat, if not improve on, their performance last year in Phuket. The duo set a career best here in 2009 by winning their first three main draw matches, including defeating Germany’s Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig, en route to a fifth-place finish. This year they have started out along a similar path, defeating fourth-seeded Nicole Branagh and Kerri Walsh of the USA 21-12, 21-18 in the second round. Their next best finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour are three ninths, which they have accomplished all in their last four outings. They have guaranteed themselves at least a ninth place finish in Phuket, and will play fifth-seeded Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic on Friday.
Top-seeded Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China, who won last week in Sanya, China and have played in the finals of their last five tournaments on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, recorded their eighth straight sweep with a pair of wins to open play in Phuket. The duo won the inaugural Phuket event in 2006 before placing 25th in 2007. Neither player competed here in 2008 and then each played with different partners last season.
The second-seeded German team of Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig also went undefeated on Thursday. Goller and Ludwig won a silver medal last week after winning their first five matches to reach the gold medal contest. Joining them in the unbeaten ranks are the Schwaiger sisters from Austria, Doris and Stefanie. The third-seeded team in Phuket, they are in their eighth season and this marks the highest they have ever been seeded.
Kolocova and Slukova, who are coming off a career-tying best finish of fifth place in Sanya, managed to win their first two matches Thursday join the unbeaten ranks, but their victories did not come easy. They lost the opening set against a qualifying team from Germany before bouncing back to win the next two sets and the match. Then against the 12th-seeded team from Greece, Kolocova and Slukova again went three sets, winning 25-23, 16-21, 15-12.
Brazilian sisters Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado swept both of their opponents Thursday and will play against Xue and Zhang on Friday morning. The eighth-seeded Salgados finished fifth in Phuket in both 2007 and 2008 before skipping last year’s tournament.
The Netherlands’ Roos Van der Hoeven and Jantine van der Vlist, seeded 27th, sent Americans Angie Akers and Tyra Turner, the sixth seeds, to the contender’s bracket in another big upset of the first round. However it was another team from The Netherlands, Sanne Keizer and Marleen Van Iersel, who reaped the rewards as the 11th-seeds won the meeting between the two Dutch teams. Keizer and Van Iersel will next play the Schwaiger sisters.
Brazilians Ana Paula Henkel and Tatiana Minello, seeded 32nd after becoming the oldest team to ever qualify on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, lost both matches on Thursday to finish 25th. Tati indicated this may be her last event.
The United States leads all countries having won seven of the 12 medals in Phuket, including placing 1-2 in the last three Karon Beach finales. Kessy and Ross have won the last two events here, and no country besides China or the U.S. has played in any of the four title matches. The Americans have an uphill battle to repeat, as the top three seeded U.S. teams are now all in the same part of the contender’s bracket which will send one team to the semifinals.
Updated results and draw schedule for pro tournament are at
Meanwhile, Bob Selznick, organiser/coach for the amateur teams, told Phuketindex that the local hotel contest would start at 2pm on Friday, with final on Sunday at about 1pm; while the local school’s contest would start at 9am on Saturday with their final about 11am on Sunday. Times may change according to the weather and the professional contest schedule. Hotel guests, tourists and residents are welcome to come support their favourite local teams.