"Hot" in Klagenfurt," cool" center court nets Swiss "success"

Klagenfurt, Austria, July 29, 2016 - Joana Heidrich described the women’s quarterfinals of the A1 Major Klagenfurt Friday as well as anyone could on a warm, sunny day.

“It was hot,” the 24-year-old Rio 2016 Olympian said, “but it was really cool to play on this court.”

Heidrich and partner Nadine Zumkehr joined Switzerland compatriots Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli, top-seeded Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst and Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug in Saturday’s semifinals of the SWATCH Major Series event on the shores of Lake Worthersee.

It was No. 13 seeds Gallay and Klug who stole the show in the stadium court, which blazed in 82-degree temperatures with little or no wind penetrating the massive and loud stadium where more than 8,000 fans followed a full day of action. With the Argentine Olympic duo and the fanatics in the crowd taking turns inspiring each other, Gallay and Klug scored a 21-18, 15-21, 15-13 victory over second-seeded Britta Buthe and Karla Borger of Germany, who are also on their way to Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a big thing for us to keep pushing every moment and have the energy to fight all the time,” Gallay said. “That’s how we show how we play.”

Earlier in the day, Gallay and Klug outlasted Brazilians Juliana Felisberta and Taiana Lima, 19-21, 21-18, 15-10 to reach the quarterfinals, which was already their best result in an FIVB World Tour Grand Slam or Major event. 

“We were expecting to play good for Rio so this is already too much for us,” Klug said. “But I think it can be better tomorrow.”

Gallay and Klug will meet Heidrich and Zumkehr in one semifinal and Betschart and Huberli take on Ludwig and Walkenhorst as the four teams chase the top prize of US$57,000 in the final tournament before the Olympics.

European champions Ludwig and Walkenhorst, one of the Olympic favorites with four FIVB World Tour titles under their belt in the 2016 season, had all they could handle against No. 10 seeds Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge Depre of Switzerland before they emerged with a 21-19, 10-21, 20-18 victory in an all-Olympic duel.

With Walkenhorst favoring a heavily taped right shoulder, they found a way to reach their seventh final four of the season.

“Dramatic. Definitely a tough match,” Ludwig said. “It was real sunny and hot, but we practice a lot against the Swiss and I guess we knew each other a lot. It was a real strong mental game from us as a team and it was a good preparation for another big event, which is coming.”

Olympians Zumkehr and Heidrich, the fifth seeds, topped seventh-seeded Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez of Spain, 21-17, 21-17 to reach their first Grand Slam or Major semifinal together.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing on Saturday here in Klagenfurt,” Zumkehr said. “It took me 12 years to make it so I’m looking forward to it and I hope we’ll have fun no matter what happens.”

Emerging stars Huberli and Betschart also reached the semifinals but didn’t have to step on the scorching sand, thanks to a forfeit from Czech Republic Olympians Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova due to a twisted knee that flared up on Hermannova. She originally suffered the injury Thursday and tried to play through it but pulled out as a precautionary measure.


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