Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2016 - Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr have been one of the early season success stories on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar as the Swiss pair added to their resume an “impressive” three-set win here Thursday at the Moscow Grand Slam to clinch their pool and earn a first-round “bye” when elimination play starts Friday.
Seeded 16th in the US$800,000 Moscow Grand Slam, Heidrich and Zumkehr scored a 2-1 (23-21, 21-23, 16-14) win in 56 minutes over top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil to advance to the second-round of elimination and secure their best-ever finish in the Russian capital event.
“This was really a very important match for us,” said the 31-year old Zumkehr. “First of all, we had never beaten Agatha and Barbara. Secondly, we have our best finish in Moscow in four events. Finally, we add points (120) to our Olympic ranking total. A lot of pluses for us today.”
The two teams had met three previous times on the FIVB World Tour with Agatha and Barbara winning each time in three sets. The first match between the two teams was almost two years ago at the Moscow Grand Slam where the Brazilians posted a 2-1 (21-23, 21-13, 15-12) elimination win in 55 minutes on June 14, 2014.
Entering this week’s event, Heidrich and Zumkehr were listed No. 13 on the provisional ranking registry (excluding Brazilians) with 4,380 points for their best 12 finishes during the process that started in April 2015. With the Moscow pool win, the Swiss erased a 240-point finish and added the guaranteed 360 points for placing at least ninth this week to increase their ranking to No. 12 with 4,500 points.
Joana Heidrich of Switzerland
The top 15 pairs, excluding Brazilians and with a maximum of two tandems per country, will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Americans Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat were No. 12 heading into Moscow, but fall to No. 13 on the provisional list after failing to win any of their three pool play matches this week to place 25th. Fendrick and Sweat needed to finish ninth-or-higher this week to improve their total of 4,470 points.
Prior to a 17th-place finish two weeks ago at the Antalya Open in Turkey, Heidrich and Zumkehr had posted four-straight top five finishes on the FIVB World Tour highlighted by a gold medal in Russia (Sochi) and a third-place finish in China (Fuzhou). Since starting the season with a 4-4 match mark and two 17th-place finishes at Brazilian events in Maceio and Rio, the Swiss have won 25 of their last 32 matches.
Other pool women’s winners Thursday were second-seeded Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil (Pool B), third-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States (Pool C), fourth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany (Pool D), fifth-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan of Canada (Pool E), sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima of Brazil (Pool F), 10th-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe of Germany (Pool G) and eighth-seeded Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia (Pool H).
The Moscow Grand Slam elimination matches will be played Friday and Saturday to set the lineup for Sunday’s medal matches. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.