Fuzhou, China, April 22, 2015 – Azerbaijan’s Iuliia Karimova/Raquel Goncalves Ferreira progress to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Fuzhou Open 2015 main draw in only their third major tournament. The first FIVB tournament of the season also opens the Olympic qualification window for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
In its third consecutive year, the FIVB Fuzhou Open is the first double-gender FIVB Open event of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar with a prize purse of US$150,000.
Karimova/Ferreira dug deep to finally beat Germany’s Victoria Bieneck/Yanina Weiland in their second round qualification match 2-1 (21-14, 19-21, 21-19). The morning had swung in the Azerbaijan teams favour after an unfortunate withdrawal from Anna Behlen/Katharina Culav from Germany in the first round. Gaining experience
The task of beating Bieneck/Yanina was not an easy one. The pair has got together for the first time this season and still finding their feet, were took by surprise by Karimova/Ferreira.
The set plays by Azerbaijan rarely went awry as the team held onto the lead in the first set. Bieneck/Yanina were visibly stronger in the second set and given the slightest opportunity, would pounce on the chance. The tie-break was a nail biting exchange of points with Karimova/Ferreira finally snatching the last two and a spot in the main draw.
“I’m happy because for us it’s only our third big tournament and I want to give big thanks to my partner because she helped me a lot,” said Karimova.
“It was a tight match from the beginning to the end. The first game started with a little bit more wind so we got ourselves a little ahead, but it was still really tight the entire match. It took a lot of concentration and strategy and like Iuliia said we’re really, really happy. This is really big for us coming on our third tournament together and playing well.
I like the conditions here, it’s not crazy sunny and there’s a little bit of wind today. For us it’s good because we had a chance to practice a little under the wind and it’s not really hot or cold so for me it’s perfect weather,” said Ferreira.
The team began testing the beach volleyball waters last year, with Karimova making the transition from indoor volleyball.
“We always have high hopes and expectations. We were training really hard for two months before we came here and our first goal is one step at a time. Of course one match at a time is to qualify and now going to the main draw, we expect to start doing well in the main draw. For Iuliia it’s her first real year beach volleyball, she came from indoor, so even though she is changing platforms, we are still expecting to win and go really well and be a very competitive team,” said Ferreira.Top seeds USA’s Summer/Fopma smoothly through
USA’s Summer Ross/Jennifer Fopma entered the qualification tournament as top seeds and the only team of the day to have earned a bye directly into the second round. Here they Sophie van Gestel/Jantine van der Vlist from the Netherlands who were not going to give the US team an easy time of it.
Van Gestel/van der Vlist are experienced on the world tour with van Gestel just missing out on the bronze medal in Fuzhou last year. The Dutch pair play together for the first time in 2015 and a strong performance against Summer/Fopma means they will be one to watch this season.
The US team proved their position as the highest ranked pair taking the match 2- 0 (21-19, 21-18) with Summer’s ability to find the space and strong blocking and defence by Fopma.
“We’re feeling really excited. We’re the only team that didn’t have a first match so we didn’t really get to warm up and we sat all day, so I think we were really nervous,” said Fopma.
“I’m super happy. I was so ready to play, yes I was a little nervous, but we’ve been practicing for three days so I just wanted to play a match. I knew they were a really good ball control team, so I knew they would be trouble,” said Ross.
“We knew that they were both really good, really big hitters, so we knew it would be a really big battle and it was,” said Fopma.
Summer/Fopma are a new partnership in 2015 and are enjoying the journey.
“It’s great, I mean we’re a new team, but I’m loving it. I’ve never really played like this with all the energy,” said Ross.
“I think we have a good chemistry. I’m pretty fiery when I play and Summer is quiet, but I think I pull out a lot of fire in her, so it’s kind of fun back and forth,” said Fopma.
“We want to just keep the aggression up and keep improving, I think we can do a lot better too,” said Ross.
“It seems like every time we practice, every time we play we improve and we get better at something so hopefully to keep improving and keep winning every time we play,” said Fopma.
The Fuzhou Open is held at the purpose built venue in the city’s Mianjiang Riverside Park. China has hosted a total of 49 FIVB World Tour events and the second Chinese stop on the 2015 calendar will be the double-gender event FIVB Xiamen Open scheduled for September 22 to 27.
The gold medal teams in each gender at the FIVB Fuzhou Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500. The men’s medal matches will be held on Saturday and the women’s medal matches will be held on Sunday.