Finland’s Riika Lehtonen and Niina Athiainen delighted with main draw progression in Jinjiang
Jinjiang, China, May 22, 2019 – Finland’s Riika Lehtonen and Niina Athiainen gain a main draw position posting two wins on the opening day of the 2019 FIVB World Tour Beach Volleyball Jinjiang event.
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Two teams from Thailand stood between Lehtonen/Athiainen and the Jinjiang main draw. First up was Chanthira Khanok and Yodsaphat Pakham.
Lehtonen/Athiainen’s last FIVB World Tour event ended in a disappointing first round qualification loss in Xiamen and the pair were determined not to let it happen again. After a shaky start they beat Chanthira/Yodsaphat, 2-0 (21-18, 21-12).
The Finnish pair came out confidently in their second round match to beat Tanarattha Udomchavee and Rumpaipruet Numwong, 2-0 (21-9, 21-13).
“This is a really important step for us, now we need to pass the qualifications to get to the main draw and you need to stay focused in every game. I’m happy with our team’s performance today and in the difficult moments, like in the first game there was a moment where we were like, do we take it or not? From then on we had three really good sets,” said Lehtonen.
Finland's Riika Lehtonen during qualification in Jinjiang
“The first set in the first game was really tight, but we managed to pull it together. These were tough games,” said Athiainen.
Lehtonen and Athiainen began playing together last year and have had two quarterfinal finishes in The Hague 4-Star and Tokyo 3-Star.
“We are feeling really good because we have been struggling, we changed the coach in January and starting new systems and it has been going good but now we are missing games and game rhythms. We didn’t have such a good game last time here in China, we lost the first round in the qualification and we know we need to be super aggressive because the level is so high. We need to play good all the time.
Today we had two good Thai wins, so we are really happy about the main draw place. It’s important for us and this is one step forward,” said Lehtonen.
Varapatsorn Radarong meets Australia's Phoebe Bell
Thailand has one team progressing to the main draw with Varapatsorn Radarong/Khanittha Hongpak who closed out two tie-breaks in the qualification.
USA’s Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings again climb out of qualification by securing the win over Japan’s Kaho Sakaguchi/Reika Murakami, 2-0 (21-13, 21-15). Talita Da Rocha Antunes and Taiana Lima also make sure of their main draw spot defeating Swiss team Laura Caluori/Dunja Gerson, 2-0 (21-14, 21-15).