Gstaad, Switzerland, July 6, 2016 - There is a different script developing for the 2016 SWATCH Major Series as German pairs have won the first two women’s stops this season as teams from the European country are trying to match the success that their Brazilian counterparts had during the inaugural campaign for the FIVB World Tour’s newest format of beach volleyball tournaments.
With this week’s $800,000 Gstaad Major being the third of FIVB SWATCH Major Series events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, the German teams of Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (Hamburg) and Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude (Porec) have topped the podiums at the first two Major events in Germany and Croatia, respectively.
Led by three Major gold medals by Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, Brazilians topped the 2015 SWATCH Major Series podiums in Croatia, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. Talita and Larissa won 2015 SWATCH gold medals in Porec, Gstaad and Fort Lauderdale with the United States in the south Florida coastal resort city netting the Brazilians the $100,000 first-place prize. The pair missed the Norwegian stop in Stavanger as Talita was sidelined with an injury.
With Talita and Larissa withdrawing from the 2015 Stavanger Major, Juliana Felisberta and Maria Antonelli topped the SWATCH podium in Norway. Both are playing with different partners this season. Juliana, who missed the Porec event last week due to shoulder problems, and Taiana Lima are paired together this season with Antonelli teaming with Liliane Maestrini. Lima and Fernanda Alves finished second to Talita and Larissa in the 2015 Gstaad Major.
When Wednesday’s Main Draw play begins with pool play matches, Talita and Larissa will be the top-seeded team and will be seeking to recover from a ninth-place finish last week at the Porec Major. The Brazilians opened Major season by placing third in Hamburg where Ludwig and Walkenhorst upset Americans April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas in the final four matches.
With Ludwig and Walkenhorst seeded third this week behind Ross and Walsh Jennings, Laboureur and Sude are seeded 14th after qualifying for the 2016 Gstaad Major Main Draw Tuesday. The pair also qualified for last week’s Porec Major where Laboureur and Sude defeated compatriots Karla Borger/Britta Buthe in the semifinals and Canadians Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan in the finals to win their first FIVB World Tour gold medal together. In addition, Laboureur and Sude became the 11th team that advanced from a qualifier to win a women’s international event.
Bansley/Pavan and Borger/Buthe are seeded fourth and ninth, respectively, in the Gstaad Major. To reach their second-straight Porec Major finale, Bansley and Pavan defeated Ludwig and Walkenhorst in last week’s semifinals in the Croatian coastal resort town. Bansley and Pavan were the bronze medal winner in Gstaad last season as Walsh Jennings forfeited the third-place match due to shoulder injury against Agatha and Barbara in the quarterfinals.
With the FIVB World Tour visiting Swiss village for the 17th-straight season, the women’s pool play schedule will Thursday with 16 matches starting in the morning. The first round of women’s elimination will be Thursday afternoon followed by two rounds Friday to set the field for Saturday’s final four matches where the winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prize.