Seven countries seek Singapore gold

Sentosa, Singapore, June 23, 2018 - Women’s teams from Germany, Japan and Sweden and men’s duos from China, Estonia, Indonesia and Slovenia will compete here Sunday for the podium positions after each Beach Volleyball pairs won quarter-final matches Saturday at the US$50,000 Singapore Open presented by Neo Group.

Japan will have two women’s team seeking gold on Silso Beach in Sentosa after fifth-seeded Reika Murakami/Chiyo Suzuki and eighth-seeded Ayumi Kusano/Takemi Nishibori advanced to Sunday’s semi-finals along with 11th-seeded Anna Behlen/Sarah Schneider of Germany and 16th-seeded Sigrid Simonsson/Tadva Yoken of Sweden.

Advancing to the men’s semi-finals are second-seeded Mohammad Ashfiya/Candra Rachmawan of Indonesia, third-seeded Jan Pokersnik/Nejc Zemljak of Slovenia, fourth-seeded Peng Gao/Yang Li of China and 10th-seeded Kusti Nolvak/Mart Tiisaar of Estonia.

In Sunday’s women’s semi-finals, Behlen/Schneider will meet Kusano/Nishibori while Simonsson/Yoken will challenge Murakami/Suzuki.  The men’s opening matches Sunday are aligned by FIVB confederations as Europeans Pokersnik/Zemljak will meet Nolvak/Tiisaar in the first semi-finals with Ashfiya/Rachmawan playing fellow Asians Gao/Li or Jongklang/Khaolumtarn.

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 afternoon with the “medal” matches for women and men as the winning pairs will split the $4,000 first-place prizes.

Each women’s team has appeared in a FIVB World Tour “final four” this season with Behlen and Schneider topping a May 6 international podium in Cambodia while Kusano and Nishibori capturing the gold medal the same day in The Philippines at Manila.

Murakami and Suzuki placed third in China June 3 at the Jinjiang Open while Simonsson and Yoken dropped the bronze medal match to Swedish rivals Kristina and Susanna Thurin May 20 at the Aydin Open in Turkey.  The match ended a “historic” run for both Swedish teams as it marked the first-time a women’s or men’s team from that Scandinavian country had competed in a FIVB World Tour “final four”.

Competing in their third FIVB World Tour event together, Behlen and Schneider defeated a team from The Netherlands before advancing to Sunday’s semi-finals by defeating second-seeded Gaia Traballi/Agata Zuccarelli of Italy 2-0 (21-18, 21-10) in a 33-minute quarter-final match.

Kusano and Nishibori, who are competing in their ninth FIVB event together, eliminated a pair from England before netting their third semi-final berth this season by posting a 2-1 (21-17, 9-21, 15-10) quarter-final win in 43 minutes over 21st-seeded qualifiers Arianna Barboni/Silvia Costantini of Italy.  Kusano and Nishibori followed their Manila success with a bronze medal the next week in Bangkok, Thailand.

Simonsson and Yoken ousted two of the Singapore Open’s top seeds to advance to the semi-finals in eighth FIVB event together.  After eliminating third-seeded Phoebe Bell/Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia 2-1 (19-21, 30-28, 15-11) in 69 minutes, the Swedes gained their second “final four” berth this season with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) win in 35 minutes over fourth-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Daria Mastikova of Russia.

Playing in their eighth World Tour event together, Murakami and Suzuki opened play Saturday with a win over an Indonesia tandem before advancing to Sunday’s play with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) quarter-final win in 34 minutes over 14th-seeded Viktoria Seeber/Cinja Tillmann of Germany.

While the women played only two elimination rounds Saturday, the men semi-final qualifiers had to complete three matches starting with pool play followed by two “knock-out” rounds.  While the teams from China, Estonia and Indonesia won all three of their matches Saturday, Pokersnik and Zemljak had to rebound from a morning pool play setback to Nolvak and Tiisaar to win two elimination matches to gain their second FIVB World Tour “final four” berth this season.

Pokersnik and Zemljak, playing in their 13th World Tour event with a gold medal last September in France (Montpellier), dropped a 2-0 (21-19, 26-24) Pool C decision in 47 minutes to the Estonians before eliminating ninth-seeded Simon Fruhbauer/Jorg Wutzl of Austria 2-1 (21-14, 15-21, 15-13) in 55 minutes and top-seeded Cole Durant/Damien Schumann of Australia 2-1 (21-17, 17-21, 17-15) in 56 minutes.

Competing in their ninth FIVB event together with a second earlier this season Thailand (Satun), Ashfiya and Rachmawan posted wins Saturday over pairs Thailand and Austria before gain their third World Tour semi-final berth with a 2-0 (21-18, 22-20) quarter-final win in 45 minutes over 20th-seeded qualifiers Marcio Guadie/Arthur Mariano of Brazil.

Gao and Li, who are playing in their 11th FIVB event together with a bronze medal earlier this month in Jinjiang, started Saturday with wins over duos from Austria and Japan before gaining a “final four” spot with a 2-1 (20-22, 21-15, 15-7) quarter-final win in 41 minutes over 14th-seeded qualifiers Surin Jongklang/Adisorn Khaolumtarn of Thailand.

The most experience team in the “final four” with 19 FIVB participations together, Nolvak and Tiisaar closed out Saturday’s play with elimination victories over seventh-seeded Gabriel Kissling/Michiel Zandbergen of Switzerland (2-1 (21-18, 17-21, 15-7) in 54 minutes and 17th-seeded qualifiers Martin Appelgren/Simon Boman of Sweden 2-0 (21-11, 21-16) in 32 minutes.  The Estonians will be playing in their second FIVB semi-final after winning the bronze medal at the 2017 Malaysia Open in Langkawi.


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