Klagenfurt, Austria, July 30, 2016 - Seeking their fifth gold medal of the season on the FIVB World Tour, Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst had few problems reaching the championship match of the A1 Major Klagenfurt here Saturday morning.
The top-seeded Germans scored a 21-11, 21-19 victory over Switzerland’s Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart to reach their fifth final of 2016 in the SWATCH Majors Tour event, the final tournament before Ludwig and Walkenhorst head to Brazil for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst will face another Swiss team, Nadine Zumkehr and Joana Heidrich for the gold medal on Saturday afternoon. Zumkehr and Heidrich defeated Argentina’s Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug, 21-19, 21-17, and will play for their third title.
The losing teams will play for the bronze medal. Both finalists opened the A1 Major Klagenfurt with a defeat in pool play but have gone undefeated since.
Huberli, 23, and Betschart, 20, who reached their first semifinal in only their 10th tournament together as a team, scored the first two points of the match before Ludwig and Walkenhorst reeled off eight consecutive points to take control.
The Swiss team regained their footing and pulled to within 11-7, but Ludwig and Walkenhorst steadily pulled away again and led twice by 10 points in the first set.
Huberli and Betschart had a better start in the second set and took a 7-5 lead. They were even at 16-16 when Walkenhorst scored a cross-court shot and won a joust at the net with Huberli and the Germans converted on their third match point to put it away.
Since October, Ludwig and Walkenhorst have captured titles in Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), Antalya (Turkey), the Major Hamburg and the Poland Grand Slam. They also captured the European Championship in Biel, Switzerland in early June.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst have also clinched a spot in the SWATCH Major Finals in Toronto in September. They placed second behind Brazil’s Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes in the 2015 Major Final in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Zumkehr and Heidrich, who will join Ludwig and Walkenhorst in the Olympics, used a four-point run midway through the first set to take an 11-8 lead. The Argentines turned it around and took a 14-12 lead on a cross-court hit from Klug, but a dig and hit off the block by Zumkehr gave the Swiss a 17-16 lead. Zumkehr’s hit on the second set point finished it.
The Swiss took an 8-5 lead in the second set and built the advantage to as many as five points. They will now try to earn their second gold medal of the year after capturing the Sochi Open. The duo finished ninth in the European Championships.
“Incredible. I’m just happy and thankful this happened today,” Zumkehr said. “We tried to enjoy and played better and better in this tournament. I really loved it to play out there. It was fun. Sometimes you get nervous and can’t enjoy it but I enjoyed every single second and that’s a good thing.”
In the SWATCH Major Series standings, Zumkehr and Heidrich edged closer to the top eight and automatic qualification.
The final will be the second gold medal match on the FIVB World Tour between teams from Switzerland and Germany. In the Rome Grand Slam in 2012, Zumkehr and Simone Kuhn topped Ludwig and Sara Goller Niedrig, 21-12, 21-18.