Yokohama, Japan, July 25, 2015 – Germany’s Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst beat top seeds Brazil’s Larissa Franca Maestrini/Talita Da Rocha Antunes to a place in the semifinal at 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.
Ludwig/Walkenhorst were not the only team to earn a semifinal position by knocking a Brazilian team out in Yokohama. Canada’s Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan are also through after defeating Taiana Lima/Fernanda Alves 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-10).
The Brazilian team that remains in medal contention is Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas who will face Bansley/Pavan in the semifinals.Ludwig/Walkenhorst straight set victory
With two powerful teams coming head-to-head in the quarterfinal, it was going to be a battle of wits between Ludwig/Walkenhorst and Larissa/Talita. Germany had the upper hand in executing their game plan and a number of massive Walkenhorst hits paired with Ludwig’s ability to reach the unreachable secured them the first set 21-18.
The second followed a similar trend with Ludwig/Walkenhorst using every edge of their opposition’s court. At 13-5 down, Larissa/Talita began a comeback scoring eight points in a row, but that still was not enough to break the German pair and they took the win in 37 minutes, 2-0 (21-18, 21-18).
“We’re feeling pretty good actually, it was a nice match. It was really close in the first, we had good serving and put them under pressure and in the second we were really up as well and then I decided to make it a little bit closer again. But in the end we kept serving really hard and our block defence I think it was a key point that we had a lot of good points then,” said Ludwig.
“I can’t believe it actually, it was a really good game, we had in the second set eight points in a row that we didn’t make and that’s not good, but actually we had good service, good block defence and in the beginning good side-out so we kept going on and it was working good,” said Walkenhorst.
“Right now we have no thoughts for tomorrow, we are really happy that we made it to the semi and it’s a really cool tournament, but really hot as well, so it was really tough those six matches here, but we are looking forward to going to bed, eat, shower and switch our flight because we actually have our flight tomorrow and then we are full of energy tomorrow hopefully,” said Ludwig.
Ludwig/Walkenhorst will now face April Ross/Jennifer Fopma (USA) in the semifinal match. The German pair will be aiming for the podium after just missing out on the bronze medal match at the Stavanger MJS this year. Ross/Fopma win American matchup
April Ross/Jennifer Fopma’s semifinal match was against fellow Americans Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat, but with Ross pairing up with Fopma after an injury to partner since 2014 Kerri Walsh, the two teams had never actually played each other before. The new Ross/Fopma pairing was not evident on court as their tight teamwork gained a sizable margin over Fendrick/Sweat 14-8.
Fendrick found success sending the ball to the back of the court, but Ross/Fopma had the edge at the net and the first set ended 21-16 for Ross/Fopma. Midway through the second, Fendrick/Sweat earned a run of five points including a big rally with careful control from both sides ending in a successful Fendrick lob.
Ross/Fopma stepped up and block defence earned match point, first saved by Fendrick, but then converted by Fopma for the win 2-0 (21-16, 21-18).
“It feels so good, I mean we’re not done yet, we know we have a lot of work left, but we’re going to celebrate this a little bit right now. To get to the semis in a Grand Slam is huge and we worked really hard to get here so we’re just really excited. I feel like we play a little bit better each match so we want to just continue that trend,” said Ross.
“It was a weird match, I mean it always is country versus country, but in our case because we’re just coming together, I think the fact that we knew that team so well helped us out. They wouldn’t know us because they’ve never played against us, but we’re individually played against them so I think that helped us,” said Ross.
“Semis feels so good, we haven’t had a lot of practice together so it’s really exciting that we’ve made it to Sunday now and we definitely want to keep going. We’re not satisfied if we’re not on the podium I think. I’m so stoked and grateful to be here and playing next to April. She makes me play better which is great because I’m getting every serve so it helps,” said Fopma.
Despite only playing together in one other FIVB tournament together in 2013, Ross and Fopma have been training together for many years.
“I know we have similar mentality and I know that she wants to win more than anybody out here and so do I which I think is important. The determination to never give up, intangibles just from knowing her for so long I know she has and I think as a player she has all the tools so it’s just the intangibles that matter and I knew she had them so I think that’s what matters and that’s what has helped us out.
“Her husband coached me and Jen (Kessy) in the Olympics for the last seven years. Actually everytime she came to watch me and Jen play in the Olympics or if she wasn’t in the tournament, we made the podium,” said Ross.
Yokohama Grand Slam will enter it’s final day of competition where both the men’s and women’s medals will be decided on Sunday.
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.