Xiamen, China, September 25, 2015 - Top seeds Yue Yuan/Wang Fan from China battled through their toughest pool match against Austria's Stefanie Schwaiger/Barbara Hansel 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 15-9) to earn the top spot and a bye directly into second round knock-outs at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Xiamen Open.
Yue/Wang had taken time to find their game in the previous day's pool matches against Anastasia Barsuk/Alexandra Moiseeva from Russia and Australian wild card entrants Mariafe Artacho/Nicole Laird. The Chinese pair showed a similar trend against Schwaiger/Hansel, who jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first set. At 20-15 down, the tenacious Wang/Yue fought hard to save four set points before a service error by Yue allowed Austria to win the set.
The second set began in a similar fashion with the Austrians going up at 8-3. Yue/Wang then calmed into the match and some intelligent play helped them pull back a set. The top seeds dominated in the tie-breaker throughout to post their third win in Pool A.
"Wang made many errors in the first set, so I lost my compsoure for a moment. Fortunately, we managed to get back to our rhythm in the second set," said Yue. "Wang is still a young player. She needs to play more games to learn experience."
Second-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler from Germany also survived a thrilling three-setter, defeating 15th-seeded Ekaterina Syrtseva/Yulia Abalakina of Russia 2-1 (21-23, 24-22, 15-11) in 54 minutes. With the hard-fought victory, Holtwick/Semmler secured a spot in the last 16 and will have a bye in the first round of the elimination phase.
"In the first set we already had a 3-point lead, and it looked good for us. But then we struggled a little bit in the side-out and they served quite good, so they came back. That was a tough first set. The second started just like the first set. We were leading ealry, but it got close again in the end. In third set we just put everything we had in it and we just wanted to win," said Semmler.
"It was a tough game. We kept on fighting very well, so we can be proud. It's nice to end with three wins and we don't have to play in the afternoon," said Holtwick.
Holtwick/Semmler have fond memories of Xiamen as they reached the semifinals at the Xiamen Grand Slam in 2013.
"We hope to do another great tournament here. But we have to play match by match. Tomorrow is important to play the round of 16 match. If we win, we will have a good chance to reach the semis," said Holtwick.
German qualifiers Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider are in fine form in Xiamen earning three straight wins and topping Pool F to enter directly round two of the knockout stage.
Their third pool victory came against China's Ma Yuanyuan/Xia Xinyi 2-0 (21-14, 21-11) in the heat of day.
Othe teams who won their respective pools with unscathed 3-0 records and thus earned a bye in the first round of single elimination play were Switzerland's third-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré, Russia's fourth-seeded Evgenia Ukolova/Ekaterina Birlova, Germany's Victoria Bieneck/Julia Gro ner, Switzerland's Nadine Zumkehr/Joana Heidrich.
Tatyana Mashkova/Irina Tsimbalova from Kazakhstan knocked out Germany's six-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 15-13) in the first round of elimination for a place in the last 16.
Fifth seeds Emily Day/Jennifer Kessy of the USA also fell at the first hurdle of the knock-outs as they lost to Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug from Argentina 2-0 (21-18, 21-19).
The double-gender $150,000 FIVB Xiamen Open is the final point's event on the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball calendar. The event is being held at the Guanyinshan Gold Beach in the Siming District of the Fujian Province. The winning teams in each gender will share the $11,000 first-place prize.