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14.07.2011 - Ukolova-Khomyakova reaches the second play-off round in Moscow

Moscow, Russia, July 14, 2011 – Lucky losers Ying Huang and Yuan Yue got even more lucky on the second day of women’s pool play in the FIVB Swatch Moscow Grand Slam. The young Chinese team ended up as pool winners after the Fin Nystrom sisters Erika and Emilia withdrew on Thursday due to an injury. Having already upset eight seeded Maria Clara Salgado and Carolina Solberg and ninth seeded Russian team Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova on Wednesday Huang and Yue first thought they were dreaming.

“We have never been so lucky in our life”, Yue said. They could not believe that the Fin team forfeited, so they stayed at the venue another hour to be sure. “We could have never dreamed to end up as pool winners. We did not play very well this season, ninth in Shanghai was our best finish so far. We hope that this luck will stay with us till the end of the tournament.’’ As a matter of fact the Chinese got some more luck as they had a favourable draw for Friday.

The top three seed in Moscow also finished as pool winners and advanced directly to the second single elimination round, since the pool winners earn a bye in the first knockout round. First seeded Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta De Silva, after two victories on Wednesday, won their third and last match in pool A against Czech team Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova (2-0). The Brazilian world champions were then done for the day. The same goes for number two seeded and olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, after their third win in pool B (2-0 against Austria’s Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger). Italian team Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti, seeded third, also remained unbeaten with a 2-0-win over Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson from the USA.

Other pool winners and directly qualifying for the second knockout round on Friday were defending champions Chen Xue and Xi Zhang from China, fifth seeded Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes from Brazil, Germany’s Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig and Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez from Spain. All of them remained unbeaten, except for Liliana/Baquerizo. They lost one out of three pool matches.

Sixteen other teams, the pool numbers two and three, advanced to the first knockout round played Thursday evening. Highlight of the day for the Russian audience was the last match on centre court, home team Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova against Jana Köhler/Julia Sude from Germany. With the help of an almost full stadium the Russian girls won in three close sets (22-20 21-23 15-13), needing more than one match point in the end. “The stands were full so we could not disappoint the people who supported us so well”, Ukolova said. “We are looking forward to meet the olympic champions May-Treanor/Walsh tomorrow. I hope that the stadium will be full again to help us!”

A surprise win in the first single elimination round was the victory of Belgian qualifiers Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha over eleventh seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler from Germany (22-20 21-18). The other teams that made it to the second knockout round are Angela Akers/Nicole Branagh (USA, 17th seeded), Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson (USA, 14th), Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Sluckova (Cze, 16th), Sanne Keizer/Marleen van Iersel (6th, Ned), Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr (13th, Sui) and Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Solberg (8th, Bra). The Brazilians won after Daniela Gioria and Giulia Momoli withdrew at the end of the first set, due to a knee injury of Momoli.

The women’s tournament continues on Friday with the sixteen teams second knockout round and the quarterfinals. The semi-finals and medal matches will be played on Saturday. In 2010 Xue/Zhang won the Moscow Grand Slam, after also being successful in 2008. The Chinese beat Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in the 2010 final. The Americans withdrew this year because of injury. Current World Tour leaders Juliana/Larissa won the bronze medal.

The Moscow Grand Slam is the fourth of six grand slams on the 2011 FIVB Swatch Beach Volleyball World Tour. Next week the World Tour leaves Europe for North America for a double-gender Open in Québec, Canada from July 19-24. The following week, the tour returns to Europe for the final two double-gender Grand Slams in Stare Jablonski, Poland from July 25-31 and Klagenfurt, Austria from August 1-7.

The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour visits 18 sites in 16 countries over an eight-month period, featuring 16 women’s and 14 men’s events within the African, Asian, European, North American and South American confederations, the FIVB Swatch World Tour will offer US$7.64 million in prize money.