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Xue/Zhang, Antonelli/Talita make semis at beach volleyball Sanya Open

(Xinhua)

10:14, April 28, 2012

SANYA, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese top seeds Xue Chen/Zhang Xi and Brazilian third seeds Maria Antonelli/Talita Da Rocha Antunes each posted a pair of victories here on Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Sanya Open presented by Olympic Bay, the first women's single gender event of the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

Xue/Zhang, who captured their tenth World Tour title together in the Brasilia Open last week, saw off Italian 25th seeds Gioria Daniela/Giulia Momoli 21-13, 21-6 before beating Sara Montagnolli/Barbara Hansel 21-11, 21-17 to extend their season-opening winning streak to ten, sending the Austrian 20th seeds to the lower bracket.

"I think we learned a lot from the second match. They gave us a lot of pressure," said Zhang Xi after their fourth win in a row in Sanya. "We have been improving over the last four matches, but I think there are still a lot to improve in defense and combination."

"The first set was not so difficult for us, but they made some changes in the second set and we should have adjusted ourselves sooner," Xue Chen added.

Antonelli/Talita, who lost to Xue/Zhang in the gold medal match of the Brasilia Open last week, defeated the 11th seeds Angela Vieira/Liliane Maestrini 22-20, 22-20 and reigning world champions and defending event champions Juliana Silva/Larissa Franca 21-17, 21-18 in consecutive all-Brazilian matches to secure their second straight top four finish of the season.

"We are very pleased, but I think we are playing at the same level," Talita said after the 37-minute battle with Juliana/Larissa. "It's always hard to play against Juliana/Larissa and it's always very close game, I think today we are more focused."

Antonelli/Talita were very happy with their fine start into the Olympic season. "We are happy, this is a very important year for us. We are in semifinals again and that's good for our team."

Talita admitted she had put her eyes on the gold medal. "We are always looking for a gold medal, it's always our goal to play and we'll try to do our best."

Juliana/Larissa, who had beaten Xue/Zhang to claim the title of the Sanya Open in 2011, will have to play a lower bracket match on Saturday for a ticket to the top four in the double elimination tournament.

Other teams staying in contention with one defeat each were the fourth seeds Marketa Slukova/Kristyna Kolocova of Czech Republi, the eighth seeds Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha from Belgium, Australian 12th seeds Becchara Palmer/Louise Bawden and Canada's 15th seeds Heather Bansley/Elizabeth Maloney while 2009 Sanya Open champions Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland were eliminated by Slukova/Kolocova 21-19, 21-19 in a lower bracket match Friday afternoon.

Suffering an opening loss Thursday morning, Gielen/Mouha and Bawden/Palmer and Bansley/Maloney all managed to win four in a row to keep alive their medal hopes.

"We are happy with how we played today and how we came back from our loss yesterday," said Bansley. "Thank for that it's cooler today, yesterday it was pretty hot."

Upsetting Vieira/Liliane 21-19, 21-13 on Friday afternoon, Bansley and Maloney, whose previous best finish together in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, believed they could achieve better results.

"I think so. We've prepared very well in the off-season, we are playing well as a team and I think we can do better," Bansley added.

The Main Draw tournament of the 190,000 U.S. dollars Sanya Open will continue on Saturday with the finale set for Sunday. The gold medal teams will split 30,000 dollars, the silver 21,000 and the bronze 15,000 dollars.

The tournament is the first of three single gender events for women in the 2012 season, which also includes three single gender events for men along with nine double-gender events.

Sanya is hosting the FIVB SWATCH World Tour event for the fifth year in a row and this year's Sanya Open is also included as a part of the Beach Volleyball Qualification Tournament for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

China will again stage three FIVB World Tour events in 2012 and the Sanya Open will be followed by consecutive double gender Grand Slams in Shanghai and Beijing.

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