Antalya, Turkey, October 24, 2015 – Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova claimed the gold medal at the inaugural FIVB World Tour Antalya Open on Saturday. In only their fifth event and first final together the new Czech pair defeated Italy’s Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth 2-0 (21-15, 21-17).
It was an unexpected, but much wanted success for the 27-year old Slukova and 24-year old Hermannova, who so far reached fifth place in Sochi and 17th in Xiamen, but did not get into the main draw at the Long Beach and Olsztyn Grand Slam.
“We didn’t expect anything coming here”, said Slukova. “Our goal was to get out of the pool and then we would see what would happen. Because we just started together, but also because I hurt my ankle in Xiamen and I didn’t train a lot. But it happened, so we are very happy.”
Slukova said goodbye to her long-term partner Kristyna Kolocova, with whom she won two gold and one bronze medal, in the middle of the 2015 season to team up with Hermannova. A lot of people criticized this decision and the past few months had been very emotional, Slukova said.
“I feel a little satisfaction now because the past three months were hard after this break-up. Winning this gold is especially good for our coach Simon. Because this shows it was a good decision and he is a very good coach.”
The Czechs, who beat USA’s Jennifer Kessy and Emily Day (16-21, 21-15, 15-13) in the semifinal, won almost all the rallies in the first set of the final and especially Orsi Toth had trouble receiving Slukova’s strong serves.
Second seeded Menegatti and Orsi Toth won gold in Sochi and bronze in Moscow and Puerto Vallarta this year and stormed into the semifinals with straight wins. They were clearly the favourites for the Antalya title but struggled on Saturday. The Italians needed three sets in the semi against Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug (21-17, 19-21, 15-13) and were under a lot of pressure in the final.
Although the second set was a lot closer, the Czechs kept their heads clear and a big block by Hermannova created the needed gap at 18-17 to win the match.
Orsi Toth: “We didn’t play as we wanted. I had a hard time with their service, my side-out was not as good as in the past days. We really wanted this gold medal, so I am not at all happy to close the season with this match. But tomorrow I will be ok with the silver.”USA bring home the bronze
Jennifer Kessy and Emily Day won their first medal with a 2-1 (18-21, 21-14, 15-13) win over Argentina’s Gallay and Klug in the bronze medal match. Individually it is Kessy’s 34th medal in fifteen seasons, while Day collected one silver medal before with Summer Ross at the 2013 Phuket Open.
The Americans, who teamed up this season hoping to get to the 2016 Olympics, took revenge for the lost match against Gallay and Klug in Xiamen in September. But again it was not an easy match against the agile Argentineans.
“This team always plays great”, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Kessy said. “They play with their hearts, as hard as they can and they dig a ton of balls. And it’s hard for us, they play a different style of volleyball than we do and we outlasted them just a little bit. Emily stepped it up on a lot of mediocre sets from me she put away. She really did well.”
Kessy and Day lost the first set, but regrouped in the second. Day: “We cleaned up our game and listened to each other a lot better. Jen made a great adjustment with highering my set a little so than I could listen and move the ball a lot better because they are such a great defensive team. If I just hit it hard at them it’s easy for them.”
“We really wanted to be in the final”, she continued. “But I think we did a great job rebounding from losing in the semis and refocusing. So we said, we’re going to get the bronze, we want to be on that podium.