Yokohama, Japan, July 22, 2015 – Japanese crowds were thrilled when local favourites Takemi Nishibori/Sayaka Mizoe won their first main draw match of the 2015 FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam. The double gender $800,000 FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam marks the first time both men and women have competed together in a FIVB World Tour event in Japan.
Japan’s highest ranked team, Take/Mizoe held their strength in the tie-break to defeat strong qualifiers Switzerland’s Tanja Goricanec/Tanja Huberli on centre court under the heat of the day, 2-1 (21-14, 17-21, 15-11).Japan returns
The excited crowd could smell Japanese victory as Take/Mizoe won the first set 21-14. But it was game on for Goricanec/Huberli in the second as the Swiss pair turned the match around taking it into the tie-break.
Take/Mizoe pulled strength from the supporters in the third and established a lead that Goricanec/Huberli could never quite close, earning Japan the win and the second position in Pool H.
“Our coach, Mr. Atsumi told us that it is difficult to play in the wind of the main court. It’s not steady and the force of the wind changes very often. It was just like that, so I’m happy to win. On such a hot day, we had so many people cheering like crazy, so we were filled with energy” said Take.
“It’s a hot day, so it was difficult to concentrate to play, but we won and I was satisfied with the quality of our play. We got consecutive points caused by Take’s serves and then our offense and defence was getting better,” said Mizoe.
“We usually play against teams that we don’t know on the World Tour, but the beginning of the game, we succeeded in analysing the Swiss team,” said Take.
Take played in FIVB tournaments twice before in Japan at the Osaka Open in 2008 and 2009, but failed to make it out of qualification. Take/Mizoe’s best result to date was last year in South Africa’s Mangaung Open where the pair took silver.
“It was first time that we have played together in our country in a big international tournament. I was nervous in the first set, but after we found our rhythm, I enjoyed playing,” said Mizoe.Zumkehr/Heidrich secure Pool G win
Meanwhile over on court three, Switzerland’s Nadine Zumkehr/Joana Heidrich were up against Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth from Italy in Pool G. As the lowest ranked pair in the group Zumkehr/Heidrich are still aiming to reach a final eight after getting as far as round two knock-outs on three occasions this year.
It was Menegatti/Toth who had the edge to start the match. The Swiss pair were taken by surprise with a premature celebration as Menegatti/Toth scrambled to save the ball and win the point at 15-13 to Italy. Clever Zumkehr/Heidrich placement pulled the Swiss pair into the lead all the way to match point where a service error at first defied them, but a final rally took the first set 21-18.
The second saw Zumkehr/Heidrich lead by five points by the midway point and although Menegatti/Toth drew even at 11-11, a tip over the net by Zumkehr secured the match 2-0 (21-18, 21-16).
“I think it was a really important game for us, we know that they are a really good team, they’re first seeded in the pool. I think we played a good game, the start was not so good, so it feels really good to win this game in two straight sets,” said Zumkehr.
“We didn’t play really play very well in the beginning, but we came back in the game and we didn’t freak out. So I think that was the point that we win this game in two sets. They came back in the second set, but we still was calm and relaxed and that’s why we won this game 2-0 so we’re happy,” said Heidrich.
“Today it was hard, there was a lot of wind, but not constant wind so before every single point you had to check about the wind which direction and it was all about being patient I think and also accepting weird points. It’s hot, so we’re happy about the wind as it helps against the heat. But the place is nice and we’re really happy to be here, it’s the first time for both of us in Japan so it’s nice to be here,” said Zumkehr.
Zumkehr/Heidrich now face Pool G leaders Germany’s Borger/Buthe in their second group match on July 23 in Yokohama.
This year’s FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam will be the third of five double-gender FIVB Grand Slams, each with a total purse of $800,000, on the FIVB World Tour 2015. Seven FIVB men’s only events were held in Japan from 1989-1995 with six being held in Enoshima and one in Yokohama in 1991. A total of 14 women’s only events were held in Osaka from 1994-2005 and in 2008 and 2009.
Japan has hosted a total of 21 FIVB World Tour events (seven men, 14 women) with the United States leading the medal count for men and Brazil dominating the medal tally for women.
Following the Yokohama Grand Slam the 2015 FIVB World Tour will have a three-week break before resuming in the United States with the double-gender FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam in Southern California set for August 18-23.