Beach Volleyball: Brazil stars edge China duo in Xiamen Open final
- Updated: October 12, 2014
October 12, 2014: Brazilian stars Juliana Felisberta Silva and Maria Antonelli edged Chinese hopes Wang Fan and Yue Yuan 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 15-13) to win their first gold medal together at the second Xiamen Open.
Despite topping this year’s points table, the experienced Brazilians hadn’t won a gold medal until Xiamen, the third and final stop in China on this year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
Juliana, 31, only played domestically last year following the retirement of former teammate Larissa Franca, with whom she won seven World Tour standings between 2005 and 2012, as well as the 2011 World Championships. Juliana was relieved to top the podium again after losing four finals in her first season with Antonelli.
“I cannot describe how I feel because I have worked so much to get a gold,” Juliana said. “I started the journey in Fuzhou this year and now probably finish the World Tour season and I get gold. I’m really happy because my team is improving and I really hope that next year I can have a great season again.”
Both Juliana and Antonelli enjoyed great success with former partners and have worked on their teamork with help from coach Leticia Pessoa.
Antonelli, 30, said: “This medal means that we will stay together. It’s been a difficult year for me and Juliana, but now we have more points than all the other teams and are the champions of the world, so I’m very proud of my partner.”
Juliana and Antonelli had to dig deep to beat Wang and Yue, who delighted the home fans with a strong start in the opener. The Brazilians were never far behind and from 10-10 they took the lead for the first time after a couple of unforced errors by 20-year-old Wang, the tallest player on the court at six-feet two-inches. However, it remained close all the way to 20-20, before Yue served two powerful aces to wrap up the opener.
The Brazilian pair replied by taking a 7-3 lead in the second set due to Juliana’s domineering presence at the net, before number of huge slams by Antonelli helped to close out the second set and level the match.
In the tiebreak, Juliana and Antonelli eventually won a huge rally that opened the set, before Yue continued to power down her incredible serves at over 70kmh and helped draw level at 9-9. Brazil then pulled away to 14-11 and after failing to convert their first two match points, Antonelli kept her cool on a big smash to secure the gold.
“The Chinese girls played very good and they were playing at home and all the people here shouted for China,” Juliana said. “I really like to play like this. They had a good season and probably those girls are going to be getting better next season, too.”
Yue, 26, was pleased with her team’s second silver of the season, having also finished runner-up in the season-opening Shanghai Grand Slam.
“We’re feeling really great because this is our last tournament this year, so even though we’re a little disappointed we didn’t become the champions, this is like a perfect end to the season,” said Yue, who played with Ma Yuanyuan last year after partnering Wang in 2012.
“We are familiar with the weather of China, the spectators are really enthusiastic and give us a lot of support so that helps us and gives us confidence.
Wang and Yue were meeting Juliana and Antonelli for the fourth time this year, with the Chinese pair winning only one of the previous clashes, at the Gstaad Grand Slam in Switzerland.
Wang, who played with Ding Jingjing and then Zheng Yixin last season, said: “This is the fourth time we’ve played the Brazilian team this year and we beat them once, although they didn’t play well. To meet them again is our honour because they have a lot of experience and we can learn from them. We are capable and we need this kind of confidence to improve on our weaknesses and build more confidence for the future.”
Wang and Yue reached the final by beating USA’s Tealle Hunkus and Kendra Vanzwieten 2-0 (21-14, 21-9).
Source: FIVB (www.fivb.org); Editing by SportAsia