Russian Olympians lead Singapore Open women’s field

Sentosa, Singapore, June 22, 2018 - Led by two-time Russian Olympians Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova, six women’s pairs claimed pool play titles here Friday to advance to the elimination rounds unbeaten in the US$50,000 Singapore Open presented by Neo Group.

With the men only playing one round of pool play Friday, the women completed group action with the seventh-seeded Birlova and Ukolova defeating pairs from The Netherlands and Hong Kong in Pool F action to advance to a mid-day Saturday elimination match against compatriots Ksenia Dabizha/Daria Mastikova with the winners advancing to the late afternoon quarter-finals.

While the women played two rounds of elimination bracket play Saturday, the men complete pool play followed by two rounds of “knock-out” competition on Silso Beach in Sentosa as the FIVB World Tour stages only its second international event in the Asian country in the 32-season history of the Beach Volleyball circuit.

The Singapore Open, which is one of three FIVB World Tour events being held this weekend with the other two tournaments in Turkey (Manavgat) and the Czech Republic (Ostrava), concludes Sunday with the “final four” matches as the winning pairs will split the $4,000 first-place prizes.

Joining Birlova and Ukolova, who placed fifth at the Rio 2016 Olympics after finishing ninth at the London 2012 Summer Games, as women’s pool winners Saturday were third-seeded Phoebe Bell/Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia (Pool C), eighth-seeded Ayumi Kusano/Takemi Nishibori of Japan (Pool E), 11th-seeded Anna Behlen/Sarah Schneider of Germany (Pool B), 12th-seeded qualifiers Nai-Han Kou/Pi Hsin Liu of Chinese Taipei (Pool A) and 21st-seeded qualifiers Arianna Barboni/Silvia Costantini of Italy (Pool D).

Kou and Liu, the first women’s or men’s team from Chinese Taipei to medal at a FIVB World Tour event after placing second this season at the Jinjiang Open in China, upset top-seeded Suzuka Hashimoto/Sayaka Mizoe of Japan 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) in the 38-minute Pool A finale.  The Japanese pair had won two FIVB events this season highlighted by a three-set win June 3 over Kou and Liu in the Jinjiang gold medal match.

Like Kou and Liu, Barboni and Costantini have now won four matches in the 2018 Singapore Open.  After posting qualifying wins Thursday over pairs from Italy and Japan, Barboni and Constantine captured Pool D Friday with victories over teams from Russia and Sweden.  The Italians first win Friday was a 2-1 (21-23, 25-23, 17-15) decision in 53 minutes over fourth-seeded Dabizha/Mastikova, who captured a FIVB gold medal April 29 at the World tour event in Langkawi, Malaysia.


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