Sentosa, Singapore, June 24, 2018 - The teams of Reika Murakami/Chiyo Suzuki of Japan and Peng Gao/Yang Li of China topped the women’s and men’s podiums, respectively, here Sunday at the $20,000 Singapore Open presented by Neo Group.
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The gold medal finishes earned each pair their first-ever World Tour titles as each team earned $4,000 for their first-place finishes. Gao and Li’s victory marked the first FIVB title for the Chinese men since 2010 when Penggen Wu and Linyin Xu captured two gold medals in 2010 at events in Moscow and Marseille, France.
China's Peng Gao (left) and Yang Li
Murakami and Suzuki are the sixth Japanese women’s team to win a FIVB World Tour title and the fifth this season. On Saturday in Turkey, Satono Ishitsubo and Asami Shiba captured a gold medal for Japan by defeating Belgium’s Sarah Cools/Lisa Van Den Vonder 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 21-19) in the 60-minute Manavgat finale.
Suzuka Hashimoto and Sayaka Mizoe topped two World Tour podiums this season in Vietnam (Tuan Chau Island, May 12) and China (Jinjiang, June 3). Ayumi Kusano and Takemi Nishibori finished first for Japan in the Philippines (Manila, May 6) with Satono Ishitsubo and Asami Shiba capturing gold on Saturday in Manavgat, Turkey.
After posting a 2-1 (20-22, 21-14, 15-10) semifinal win in 47 minutes over second-seeded Mohammad Ashfiya and Candra Rachmawan of Indonesia, the fourth-seeded Gao and Yang Li captured their second FIVB World Tour medal this season by defeating 10th-seeded Kusti Nolvak and Mart Tiisaar of Estonia 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) in the 36-minute men's finale.
After the match, the 28-year old Gao said: "Maybe our competition experience is not complete. There are some styles of play we still need to analyse and small areas we need to improve on." The 29-year old Li added that: "Everyone wants to win a World Tour title, and today we didn't make any serious mistakes and executed everything well."
Nolvak and Tilsaar, who were only the second Estonian team to play in a FIVB World Tour gold medal match with the first being Kristjan Kais/Rivo Vesik at the 2017 Croatian Open in Zagreb, advanced to the Singapore Open finale with a 2-0 (21-14, 22-20) semifinal win in 39 minutes over third-seeded Jan Pokersnik/Nejc Zemljak of Slovenia.
In the men’s bronze medal match, Ashfiya and Rachmawan claimed their second FIVB World Tour medal this season with a 2-0 (28-26, 22-20) victory in 49 minutes over Jan Pokersnik and Zemljak. The Slovenians were seeking their second FIVB victory this season after winning the first men’s gold medal on the 2017-2018 World Tour calendar last September in Montpellier, France.
In the second all-Japanese finale this season on the women’s FIVB circuit, the fifth-seeded Murakami and Suzuki defeated eighth-seeded Kusano and Nishibori 2-0 (23-21, 21-15) in the 40-minute gold medal match. On Friday, Kusano and Nishibori had defeated Murakami and Suzuki 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) in a 38-minute pool play match.
"This is a very big surprise," said the 24-year old Suzuki. "I couldn't believe it when they said we were the champions... this is a dream. I'm so happy because this is the first time we're getting an FIVB gold medal. In the second set, we tried to play a little differently from the first set, including using different types of service to move our opponents around and tire them out."
To reach the Singapore title match, Murakami and Suzuki scored a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) semifinal victory in 36 minutes over 16th-seeded Sigrid Simonsson and Tadva Yoken of Sweden. Kusano and Nishibori advanced to the finals with a 2-1 (20-22, 21-19, 16-14) win in 57 minutes over 11th-seeded Anna Behlen and Sarah Schneider of Germany.
In the women’s third-place match, Behlen and Schneider claimed their second medal this season by defeating Simonsson and Yoken Sweden 2-1 (27-25, 13-21, 15-11) in 57 minutes. The Germans topped a FIVB podium May 6 in Cambodia.
The Singapore Open was the second of three FIVB World Tour events to be staged this weekend with the Ostrava Open in the Czech Republic concluding the action where pairs from Canada and the host country will compete for the women’s gold medal and Poland and Spain vie for the men’s title.