Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2016 - The number six was “wild” here Saturday afternoon for Larissa Franca as she and Brazilian partner Talita Antunes advanced to the women’s finals of the US$800,000 Moscow Grand Slam after winning a pair of matches in the FIVB World Tour stop at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre.
In recording her team’s sixth-straight win over Canadians Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan along with she and Talita winning six-straight matches this week, Larissa captured her sixth Moscow Grand Slam medal in her sixth appearance in the Russian capital.
“Six is not my lucky number,” said the 34-year old Larissa, who has been playing full-time on the FIVB World Tour since 2004 with the first 10 seasons with Juliana Felisberta. “Being No. 1 is my lucky number. I want to win every match and every tournament. Being No. 1` is my goal in everything I do.”
With their 2-1 (21-15, 15-21 and 15-12) semi-final win in 41 minutes over the fifth-seeded Bansley and Pavan, Talita and Larissa advancde to their 13th FIVB World Tour gold medal match with the Moscow Grand Slam being their 20th international start together since forming their partnership mid-way through the 2014 season. The Brazilians have never been beaten in a FIVB finale.”
And the number six was also prominent for Larissa and Talita in their match with the Canadians as the Brazilians won the first set by six points and dropped the second set by six points. In the third and deciding semi-final set Saturday afternoon, Larissa and Talita used a six-point run to capture the match after trailing 10-8 to take a 14-10 lead.
“That was an amazing stretch for us,” said the 33-year old Talita, who won a silver medal with Taiana Lima at the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam. “We have played very well this week and the Canadians really played well in the second set and for most of the third set. That six-point run was huge for us.”
With their two wins Saturday, including a 2-0 (22-20, 21-10) quarter-final win in 32 minutes over 10th-seeded Karla Borger and Britta Buthe of Germany, Larissa and Talita will now play third-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States for the gold medal Sunday afternoon.
It will be the third FIVB meeting between the two teams as the previous two matches have been gold medal confrontations. Larissa and Talita posted a pair of two-set finale wins over Ross and Walsh Jennings at the 2015 United States Grand Slam in Long Beach last August and the 2015 Vitoria Open in mid-March at the third of three-straight world tdour stops in Brazil.
Ross and Walsh Jennings have already won three of their six matches this week against Brazilian pairs, including two victories Saturday. After posting a 2-0 (21-10, 21-15) quarter-final win in 28 minutes over 19th-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia of Brazil, Ross and Walsh Jennings scored a 2-0 (21-16, 22-20) semi-final victory over sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta and Taiana Lima. During pool play Wednesday, the Americans also defeated Duda and Elize Maia in three sets.
Competing at the Moscow Grand Slam net are Juliana Felisberta (left) of Brazil and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States
“First of all, April and I are glad to be in another finale in Moscow,” said the 37-year old Walsh, who had to forfeit her final two matches at last year’s stop in the Russian capital due to a dislocated right shoulder. “Secondly, we also look forward to playing Talita and Larissa. They play at such a high level and never quit. They are a remarkable team. Now, we must figure out with our coach (Marcio Sicoli) how to beat them tomorrow.”
When Ross and Walsh Jennings won the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam, the Americans posted a 2-1 (21-17, 22-24, 15-13) gold medal win over Talita and Lima in 52 minutes. A month later, Talita ended the partnership with Lima and started playing with Larissa at the end of July.
Saturday’s two wins were important for Ross and Walsh Jennings as the American pair improved their Olympic ranking position. Excluding Brazilians Talita/Larissa (7,420 points) and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas (6,870), Ross and Walsh Jennings are the No. 1 team on the Rio 2016 Summer Games provisional list with 6,270 points for their best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour since April 2015.
In other women’s quarter-final matches Saturday, Bansley and Pavan scored a 2-1 (14-21, 21-11, 15-11) win in 41 minutes over 11th-seeded Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland while Juliana and Lima posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) victory over 16th-seeded Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland.
The Moscow Grand Slam also features men’s play with the medal matches scheduled for Sunday afternoon with the gold medal teams sharing the $57,000 first-places prizes.