Rio Olympic champions Laura Ludwig (right) and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany were challenged seriously by teams from France and Brazil during Thursday's matches at the Rio Open.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 18, 2017 - Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst survived upset bids by pairs from France and Brazil here Thursday during the opening rounds of the US$300,000 Rio Open as the reigning Olympic champions from Germany captured their pool to earn a “bye” for the first-round of elimination bracket play on the grounds of the tennis stadium at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca.
Seeded second in the FIVB World Tour “four-star” event, Ludwig and Walkenhorst opened play Thursday with a 2-0 (22-20, 21-19) Pool B win in 37 minutes over 31st-seeded qualifiers Alexandra Jupiter/Ophelie Lusson of France. The Germans advanced unbeaten to the elimination rounds with a 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 20-18) win in 52 minutes over 18th-seeded qualifiers Juliana Felisberta and Carolina Salgado of Brazil.
In the Germans’ second match, Juliana and Carolina controlled the action for most of the contest as the Brazilians held a 10-5 advantage in the third and deciding set. “Amazing comeback against the Brazilians,” said Ludwig, who is playing in her first FIVB World Tour event since having right shoulder surgery in mid-December. “It was a difficult day as both our opponents played very well against us. My right shoulder is getting stronger with each day and each match.”
Third-seeded Chanel Laboureur and Julia Sude joined compatriots Ludwig and Walkenhorst in posting two wins Thursday as the German pair defeated teams from Austria and Brazil to win Pool C to secure their first-round “bye” for the elimination rounds.
Chantel Laboureur (right) of Germany at the net Thursday against Josemari Alves of Brazil
With Brazilian women winning 10 of 12 matches Thursday four teams from the South American country won pool titles with two wins each Thursday, including top-seeded Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil (Pool A), fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa (Pool D), fifth-seeded Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas of Brazil (Pool E) and ninth-seeded Elize Maia/Taiana Lima (Pool H).
Action Thursday on the grounds of the tennis stadium at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca
Other group winners Thursday were seventh-seeded Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic (Pool G) and 11th-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan Canada (Pool F). The Canadians upset the Australian Olympic pair of Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy 2-1 (21-11, 19-21, 16-14) in 42 minutes to win their group.
Sarah Pavin (left) and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada
With the Rio Open also featuring men’s play, Friday’s schedule begins with the final pool play matches where the winning teams advance to the elimination rounds while the losers are eliminated. The afternoon schedule will be highlighted by two elimination rounds to set the schedule for Saturday’s quarter- and semi-final matches.
The Rio Open concludes Sunday morning with the medal matches for both men and women. The winning teams share the $20,000 first-place prizes.