Brazil & China compete for Zhongwei gold

 

Fan Wang (left) stretches for Mikasa as Chinese partner Chen Xue (second from right) follows the action in a Zhongwei Open elimination match Saturday against Australians Brittany Kendall (second from left) and Nicole Laird.

Zhongwei, China, September 15, 2018 - Three teams from host China join Elize Maia/Maria Clara Salgado of Brazil in the "final four" of this week’s FIVB World Tour event after each pair won two matches here Saturday in the inaugural Zhongwei Open.


With the Zhongwei Open being the 378th FIVB World Tour event for women, China has placed three teams in a "final four" for only the second time with the first being in 2006 at the May 28 tournament finale in Shanghai where the host country finished 1, 2 and 4 with a Brazilian team netting the bronze medal.  Overall, Brazil has placed a women's team in a World Tour semi-final for the 295th time and China has had least one pair in an FIVB "final four" for the 92nd time.

Seeded second in the 19-team US$25,000 international Beach Volleyball event, Maia and Salgado prevented an all-Chinese "final four" as the Brazilians posted a 2-1 (21-15, 25-27, 15-12) quarter-final win in 53 minutes over fourth-seeded Shuting Cao/Jinjin Zeng from the host country.

It was Maia and Salgado's second win Saturday as the Brazilians opened play on the second of three days of Zhongwei competition by posting a 2-0 victory (21-8, 21-12) in 31 minutes over seventh-seeded Sara Olivova/Karolina Rehackova of Czech Republic.

With their third Zhongwei Open win and 10th overall on the FIVB World Tour in five-plus international starts to post their best finish together, Maia and Salgado meet third-seeded Fan Wang and Chen Xue of China in the second of two semi-final matches Sunday.

The first Zhongwei Open semi-final match Sunday morning will be an all-Chinese affair with 14th-seeded Meimei Lin/Lingdi Zhu meeting 18th-seeded Jingzhe Wang/Shuhui Wen China.  The final two teams will compete Sunday afternoon for the $4,000 first-place prize.

If two Chinese teams reach the gold medal match, it will be the fifth time pairs from the host country have met in a women’s World Tour finale.  The last time was at a 2017 stop in Nantong, China when Wen/Xinyi Xia defeated Xinxin Wang/Xue 2-0 (21-18, 21-14) in the 31-minute gold medal match June 25.

A Brazil vs. China gold medal match would be the 26th women’s meeting for a title with the South Americans winning 18 times.  The last meeting between the two countries was June 17, 2018, in Nanjing, China, when Brazilians Josemari Alves/Liliane Maestrini defeated Fan Wang/Xinyi Xia 2-1 (21-18, 21-23, 15-11) in the 56-minute title match.

With China guaranteed two spots on the Zhongwei Open podium, the host country teams of Fan Wang/Xue and Jingzhe Wang/Wen will be seeking an FIVB gold medal in their first-ever World Tour event together.  Only five teams have accomplished the feat since the start of FIVB-sanctioned women's events in 1992 with the last being accomplished early this month in Europe when Alexandra Jupiter/Lezana Placette of France won the Montpellier Open on September 1.

Fan Wang and Xue, the most experienced Chinese players in the "final four" with 207 combined World Tour starts, advanced to the semi-finals with wins over pairs from Australia and the United States.  A two-time Olympian and 2013 FIVB world champion, Xue will be competing in her 51st World Tour "final four" in 125 FIVB starts.  Fan Wang has reached her 11th FIVB semi-final in her 82nd World Tour event.

Ling and Zhu were the first to reach Sunday's semi-finals with victories over duos from China and the United States.  Both of Jingzhe Wang and Wen's elimination wins Saturday were over teams from Poland.  Lin and Wen are playing in their third FIVB World Tour event with the pair competing in their second "final four" after placing fourth last June on "home" sand at the Nanjing Open.

The Zhongwei Open is the second qualifying event for women for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.  While 29-year old Xue has placed third and fourth at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, respectively, the 24-year old Fan Wang will be seeking her second Olympic berth after placing ninth at Rio 2016 with Yuan Yue after being eliminated by eventual silver medal winners Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas of Brazil.