Chen/Zhang take gold in Shanghai, add more medals to Sanya’s bronze
Chen Xue and Zhang Xi overpowered Brazil’s Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes 21-17, 21-18 to win the gold medal at the Shanghai Grand Slam presented by Jinshan Xinchen on Saturday.
Playing before a capacity crowd at Jinshan Beach Arena, the Chinese top seeds picked up their second gold medal of the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour.
“Shanghai is a lucky place for us,” Chen said. “We won the title six years ago and now we have it again today. We aren’t in the best condition physically, but our mental strength pulled us through.”
Chen left the court with her right foot bandaged, but appeared to be suffering no obvious ill effects in the medal presentation ceremony.
“I will have some treatment in Beijing before the next tournament,” she said.
Chen Xue and Zhang Xi have started 2012 in excellent form and after they took gold at the opening event of the year at the Brasilia Open, they then added bronze at the Olympic Bay Sanya Open.
In fact it was a day of double success over Brazilians for the Chinese pair after they beat Larissa and Juliana in straight sets (21-17, 21-13) in the semifinals, reversing a semifinal loss to the 2011 FIVB world champions in Sanya.
“We help each other and if there are any problems, we try and solve it together,” Zhang said. “Normally, if we were in our best condition we should win, but as we aren’t in the best physical condition we had to concentrate on each point.”
While Talita and Maria Antonelli were unable to reproduce their gold-medal heroics from Sanya, they did add another second silver medal to their 2012 haul following their second-place finish in Brasilia.
Earlier in the day, they beat 2011 Shanghai gold medallists Sanne Keizer and Marleen Van Iersel 21-18, 21-18, but were unable to find their rhythm again for the gold-medal match.
“Our start to the year is better than last year and this is an important year,” Talita said. “Of course, we are not happy that we lost twice against China and they are doing very well this year. Next time we play China we have to be strong all the time and cut out our mistakes.”
In the bronze-medal match Juliana and Larissa proved too strong for Keizer and Van Iersel and won in straight sets (29-27, 21-13).
After a close-fought first set, the Brazilians proved too strong in the second and collected their second medal of 2012.
“It has given us the chance to learn a lot about this year and given us the chance to get better,” Juliana said. “It is a long season and we hope we can start to play better and improve our confidence from now on.”
The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour runs over a seven-month period and features 12 tournaments for both men and women. For the women, the season started in April in Brazil and ends in October in Thailand.
The $600,000 Shanghai Grand Slam is the second of nine double-gender events and the winners share a $43,500 purse. It is the eighth straight year in which Shanghai has hosted a women’s FIVB SWATCH World Tour event.
Following the completion of the Shanghai Grand Slam, the World Tour moves on to China’s capital for the Beijing Grand Slam (May 7-12).