Hamburg, Germany, June 10, 2016 - Amazingly, the women’s final four” at the US$800,000 smart Major Hamburg could be a preview of semi-finals contestants at the Rio 2016 Olympics as the top four-ranked pairs on the provisional Summer Games list will be vying for medals here Saturday at the Am Rothenbaum stadium.
The first semi-final Saturday at the smart Major Hamburg will be an All-Brazilian affair featuring the top two-ranked teams on the Rio provisional ranking list Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas. “Final Four” match No. 2 will have host country favorites Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst meeting American Olympic medalist April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
For the record, Talita and Larissa hold a 2-1 edge in the FIVB World Tour series with Agatha and Barbara with a gold medal win last September at the Rio Open on Copacabana. Ross and Walsh Jennings are 4-0 against the Germans as the two teams have met once in a gold medal match, twice in the semi-finals and this past March at the Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana in the quarter-finals.
Talita and Larissa, who filled the host country spot for the Rio Olympics, are currently No. 1 on the provisional list for Copacabana with 7,620 points. Agatha and Barbara, who netted their Copacabana berth by winning the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Hague, have compiled 7,070 points for their best 12 finishes during the qualifying process that started in April 2015.
Despite being hampered by Walsh Jennings’ two right shoulder dislocations that resulted in surgery last September, the Americans are No. 3 on the overall Rio ranking list with 6,670 points with Ludwig and Walkenhorst fourth with 6,260 point for their best 12 finishes that included winning the European championships last August. The Germans repeated the feat last week in Switzerland, but a team could only use one of its continental competitions among its top 12 finishes.
While the Brazilians and Germans had to only win one match Friday, Ross and Walsh Jennings worked overtime with wins over two pairs from Canada and a semi-final-qualifying 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) win in 30 minutes over 16th-seeded Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez of Spain.
To reach the quarter-finals late Friday afternoon, Ross and Walsh Jennings defeated North American rivals from Canada 15th-seeded Jami Broder/Kristina Valjas in three sets (21-17, 12-21, 15-5 in 39 minutes) and fifth-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan in two sets (21-17, 21-19 in 34 minutes).
After eliminating a team from Canada, Ludwig and Walkenhorst advanced to the semi-finals with a 2-0 (21-13, 22-20) win in 35 minutes over sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima of Brazil. Agatha and Barbara ousted a team from Italy in their first match Friday before eliminating ninth-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia 2-1 (21-23, 26-24, 15-8) in 57 minutes. Talita and Antunes posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-12) quarter-final win over eighth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands after ousting a team from Vanuatu.
The smart Major Hamburg continues through Sunday when the men will play their semi-final and medal matches. The winning pairs in both the women and men’s competition will split the $57,000 first-place prizes. The men’s quarter-finals will be played Saturday around the women’s semi-final matches at the Am Rothenbaum stadium.