Gstaad, Switzerland, July 6, 2016 - This Swiss Alps resort village known for rest and recreation, but don’t tell that to the 32 women’s teams competing here Wednesday during the opening pool play rounds in the US$800,000 Gstaad Major on the four courts at two sites as more than half the field are heading next month to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
With 17 Copacabana qualified teams in the 17th annual Gstaad women’s event, four pairs were defeated during the opening pool play rounds with two of the setbacks to other Olympic-bound tandems. One of the matches was an All-American affair where 15th-seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat topped second-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh 2-1 (15-21, 21-19, 15-13) in a 50-minute Pool B confrontation.
What was surprising about the defeat was Fendrick and Sweat had never defeated their American rivals in nine previous matches, including three on the FIVB World Tour. In addition, Fendrick and Sweat entered this week’s event after placing 25th last week at the Porec Major with three-straight losses in pool play.
Fendrick and Sweat, who had to wait until the last Rio qualifying event in Germany last month at the smart Major Hamburg to secure their Olympic berth, will play 18th-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany later Wednesday afternoon with Ross and Walsh Jennings being challenged by 31st-seeded qualifiers Nicole Eiholzer and Dunja Gerson of Switzerland on the Gstaad Major center court.
Another surprising fact, Ross and Walsh Jennings have now dropped their last three FIVB World Tour matches after finishing the smart Major Hamburg with setbacks to Rio-bound teams Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in the semi-finals and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil in the bronze medal contest.
Pool B play concludes Thursday morning with Fendrick and Sweat meeting Eiholzer and Gerson while Ross and Walsh Jennings meet Holtwick and Semmler, who competed in the London 2012 Olympic Games and missed qualifying for Rio after losing the “chase to Copacabana” to Karla Borger and Britta Buthe for the second German berth behind Ludwig and Walkenhorst.
Other setbacks for Olympic-bound pairs were by Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia, Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas of Canada, and the Swiss pairs of Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr. In the other meeting of Copacabana Olympic contests, 25th-seeded Fan Wang and Yuan Yue posted a 2-1 (24-26, 21-17, 15-12) Pool H win over Heidrich and Zumkehr in 60 minutes.
Tenth-seeded Bawden and Clancy, who also placed 25th in Porec with three pool losses, were upset by 23rd-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes and Taylor Pischke of Canada 2-1 (17-21, 21-16, 15-13) in a 48-minute Pool G match. The 13th-seeded Forrer and Verge-Depre were upset in their first Pool D match Wednesday by 20th-seeded Taru Lahti and Riikka Lehtonen of Finland 2-1 (28-26, 21-16, 15-13) in 56minutes.
The 17th-seeded Broder and Valjas were upset by 32nd-seeded Dutch teenagers Nika Daalderop and Joy Stubbe Netherlands 2-1 (19-21, 24-22, 15-7) in a 48-minute Pool A match. Also competing with Border and Valjas with Rio-bound credentials in Gstaad Major Pool A are top-seeded Talita and Larissa, who defeated compatriots Juliana Felisberta and Taiana Lima in their first match Wednesday.
Third-seeded Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who escaped earlier Wednesday with a three-set win over German rivals and 14th-seeded qualifiers Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude, are in Pool C with 19th-seeded Jantine van der Vlist and Sophie van Gestel of The Netherlands. The Dutch pair earned their Rio berth via the European Continental Cup competition.
Fourth-seeded Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan defeated 29th-seeded Canadian rivals Julie Gordon and Brandie Wilkerson in their first match Wednesday and play Lahti and Lehtonen in their second pool play and conclude group action Thursday morning against Forrer and Verge-Depre.
Fifth-seeded Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland and 12th-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez of Spain are Rio-bound teams in Pool E and both pairs opened with wins Wednesday over teams from the United States and Brazil, respectively. The two teams will meet Thursday morning.
Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy, who are seeded 11th, are the only Rio qualified team in Pool F with an opening win Wednesday over 22nd-seeded Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli of Switzerland 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in 41 minutes.
Seventh-seeded Madelein Meppelink and Marleen Van Iersel of the Netherlands, who are in Pool G with Bawden and Clancy, won a three-set opening match Wednesday over 26th-seeded qualifiers Lane Carico and Summer Ross of the United States 2-1 (21-19, 19-21, 15-12) in 50 minutes.
Borger and Buthe, who escaped with a 2-0 (22-20, 34-32) opening win in 46 minutes over 24th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti and Penny Karagkouni of Greece, complete Pool H competition with back-to-back matches against the Rio-bound pairs of Wang/Yue and Heidrich/Zumkehr. Arvaniti, a three-time Olympian with three different partners, and Karagkouni missed qualifying for Copacabana via the European Continental Cup competition.
The women’s pool play schedule will conclude 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.