Juliana attacked against Chen Xue (CHN) as the world champions of Brazil bounced back from Friday’s loss to win two in a row on Saturday to make the final of the Sanya Open (photo courtesy FIVB).
World champions and defending event champions Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and third seeds Maria Antonelli/Talita Da Rocha Antunes beat respective opponents here Saturday afternoon to set up an all-Brazilian final at the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour presented by Olympic Bay.

Following an upset 2-0 loss to Antonelli/Talita in the fourth round of the winner’s bracket on Friday, the second seeded Larissa/Juliana recovered soon enough to collect an 21-13, 21-15 victory over Australian 12th seeds Becchara Palmer/Louise Bawden Saturday morning in a lower bracket match to make the semifinals, where they went on to beat top seeds and home favorites Xue Chen/Zhang Xi 21-17 and 21-16.

“There is no World Tour event hotter than the Sanya Open,” said Juliana after the 44-minute first semifinal match that made both teams exhausted. “It’s really difficult to play, especially for us. One day you lose, you have to play more and in this weather condition you need to play with more concentration than other tournaments.”

Juliana attributed her team’s victory to better preparation. “The key is about yesterday because I played very bad and I thought all night how to get better,” Juliana added. “I played very hard this morning and this afternoon and I played for two wins. I changed my play when I go to the net and I hope to continue like this tomorrow.”

The Brazilians, who defeated Xue/Zhang in the gold medal match of the Sanya Open last year, also improved their head-to-head record against Xue/Zhang to 21-8 and snapped the Chinese duo’s season-opening winning streak of ten.

"The Chinese team is very dangerous. They play very well all the time and it’s very hard to play against them every time. We never won with the same think, we have to change and think about what to do. They are a great team and for sure they are getting better.”

Antonelli/Talita had no great difficulties scoring their fifth straight victory in Sanya 21-14, 21-17 over Austrian 20th seeds Sara Montagnolli and Barbara Hansel, who saw off fourth seeds Marketa Slukova/Kristyna Kolocova of Czech Republic 2-0 in a last round match of the lower bracket.

"It is difficult to play two matches (a day) because of the heat, so they were worn out,” said Talita. “It is hot in Brazil too but it’s not like this. I can’t believe it.”

Finishing runners-up to Xue/Zhang in the season-opening Brasilia Open last week, Antonelli/Talita expected a tough rematch against Juliana/Larissa Sunday morning. “It’s going to be a great match. We know each other a lot. We played against each other in Brazil and World Tour,” Talita added. "We will do our best. We just beat them yesterday but I know tomorrow is gonna be another match.”

Having secured their fifth top four finish together at FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour, Montagnolli/Hansel will vie for the bronze medal with Xue/Zhang.

The US$190,000 Sanya Open will conclude on Sunday with the gold medal teams splitting US$30,000, the silver US$21,000 and the bronze US$15,000. 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 SWATCH World Tour events in 2012 and the Sanya Open will be followed by consecutive double gender Grand Slams in Shanghai and Beijing.

2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the first FIVB Beach Volleyball event held February 17-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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