Chinese duo take Phuket Open gold

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China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia clinched gold in the final of the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball Phuket Open, held at  Karon beach from October 29 to November 3.  The penultimate FIVB Open event of the season was back in Thailand for an eight consecutive year.

Xue & Xia never allowed USA’s Emily Day and Summer Ross to find the play that had brought them to the medal match, taking the gold in only 36 minutes 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) on Sunday, November 3.  Sixteen-year old Xia complemented her playing partner Xue perfectly, with the latter now having taken gold in Phuket for a third time.

China’s Chen Xue (left) and Xinyi Xia (right) hold up their gold medals after winning the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball Phuket Open title, Sunday, Nov. 3China’s Chen Xue (left) and Xinyi Xia (right) hold up their gold medals after winning the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball Phuket Open title, Sunday, Nov. 3

“We are so excited, it’s almost our last tournament of the year.  It’s very great to play here and it’s our lucky place,” said Xue afterwards.  “I must say Xinyi played very well and she created a new history in a Chinese team, as she is the youngest at just sixteen years old and she made her first gold medal, so I’m very proud of her.”

“It was a good experience for me and I played every ball very seriously which helped the result,” said Xia.

Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia of China pose on the podium with silver medalists Emily Day and Summer Ross of the USA and Brazilian bronze medal winners Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg.Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia of China pose on the podium with silver medalists Emily Day and Summer Ross of the USA and Brazilian bronze medal winners Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg.

Chen Xue has won gold in Phuket twice before, in 2006 and 2011 with partner Zhang Xi, but joined Xia in Phuket for only their second tournament together.  After finishing ninth in Xiamen Grand Slam the previous week, the pair had little expectation entering Phuket.

“We just thought we would get into the top eight, so this is our best record.  Until we got through to the semifinal we hadn’t thought about the possibility of winning it before,” said Xue.

Phuket Thailand Open fans at the center court on Karon beach.Phuket Thailand Open fans at the center court on Karon beach.

Despite professing their desire for gold, the silver medal was Day/Ross’s best result and the Americans’ first ever podium finish.  The pair have also only been in the final four once before when they finished fourth at Long Beach Grand Slam this year.

“We wanted the gold obviously, but we’re proud that we had such a great finish to this tournament.  They played an awesome match and really did well against us, so we couldn’t do too much,” said Day

“I thought they were a great team and there’s just a lot to learn from them.  They’re great,” said Ross.  “I can’t believe that girl’s sixteen, come on, how is that possible?  She’s so good.”

Germany’s Chantal Laboureur meets Russia’s Ekaterina Syrtseva at the net in one of the Pool B qualifying matches.Germany’s Chantal Laboureur meets Russia’s Ekaterina Syrtseva at the net in one of the Pool B qualifying matches.

In the bronze medal match, it was familiar faces all round as Brazilians Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg faced off against their fellow compatriots Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli.  It was a close affair in the first set with some outstanding rallies and well-read defence from both teams, but Maria Clara/Carol’s skill in bringing the ball back into play from every angle secured the bronze in another two set finish 2-0 (21-18, 24-22).

Thailand has hosted over 10 women’s and one men’s FIVB tournament.  Overall, the USA has been the most successful with 10 medal finishes in the seven FIVB World Tour events held in Phuket.  The tournament previously ran from 2006 until 2011, when the event moved to Bangsaen in 2012.  China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi won the 2011 edition, while Jennifer Kessy and April Ross were victorious in 2012.

The final FIVB Open of the season will be held in Durban, South Africa from 11 to 15 December.

(Report and photos courtesy www.pentanglepromotions. com)