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Beach Volleyball: Champion Chen, Xia lead China’s hopes in Fuzhou

Chen (left) won last year’s Fuzhou Open with Zhang Zi, but will try to defend her title with new partner Xia Xinyi (right). Photos: FIVB.

Chen (left) won last year’s Fuzhou Open with Zhang Zi and will try to defend her title with Xia Xinyi (right). Photo: FIVB.

April 21, 2014: Chen Xue returns to this week’s season-opening Fuzhou Open as the defending champion, but will defend her title with 17-year-old Xia Xinyi as the new pairing look to continue their sensational form at the end of last year.


The towering Chen, 25, won last April’s Fuzhou Open with long-time partner Zhang Xi, the pair going on to win the World Championships in Poland in July. In October, Chen started a new partnership with Xia, then 16, at the Xiamen Grand Slam and the duo quickly gelled, winning both the Phuket Open in November and Durban Open in December.


A total of 66 men’s teams from 29 countries and 55 women’s teams from 25 countries are entered in the US$150,000 Fuzhou Open, which will again be held at the purpose-built site on the sands of Mianjiang Riverside Park, where China has three teams in each gender pre-seeded into the main draw.


In the women’s competition, held from Wednesday to Sunday, the hosts will also be represented by Yue Yuan (26) and Wang Fan (20), and Ma Yuanyuan (23) and Wang Yuanyuan. Teenage duos Tang Ningya and Lin Meimei, and also Zheng Yixin and Wang Xinxin will feature in the qualification tournament.


For the men’s competition, which runs from Tuesday to Saturday, China’s teams are Ha Likejiang and Chen Cheng, Wu Jiaxin and Li Jian and Yang Cong and Bao Jian. China also has one men’s reserve team in Li Zhuoxin and Zhang Lizeng.


A one-day qualification tournament will determine the final eight spots in each gender’s 32-team main draw tournaments, followed by round-robin pool play and a single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams.


Both the No. 1 men’s and women’s teams in last year’s World Rankings are competing in Fuzhou. Brazil’s Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima will be among the favourites in the women’s, while Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins return for the men.


Brazilian sisters Carolina Salgado and Maria Clara Salgado, German duos Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler, and Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, and Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez are among other top contenders in the women’s.


After sitting out last year’s World Tour, Brazil’s iconic Juliana Silva returns and will team up with veteran Maria Antonelli in the qualification tournament.


Juliana played domestically in 2013 following the retirement of teammate Larissa Franca, with whom she won seven World Tour standings between 2005 and 2012, as well as the 2011 World Championships. Antonelli played last season with Agatha Bednarczuk and finished fifth in the FIVB World Rankings.


This year’s World Tour features a record purse of US$10.2 million and a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Finale and 11 FIVB Open Tournaments in a season spanning from late April to mid-December.


Eight of the Grand Slam competitions offer US$800,000 in prize money, while the event in The Hague, Netherlands and Long Beach, California, USA will offer US$1 million purses, the most in FIVB Grand Slam history. The 11 FIVB Open tournaments will offer US$150,000 purses for the seven double gender events and US$75,000 for the two men-only and two women-only competitions.


For the second year, China is again hosting three double-gender World Tour events. The Fuzhou Open will be followed by the Shanghai Grand Slam (April 29-May 4), while the Xiamen Open will be held from Oct. 7-12).


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Source: FIVB

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