Three-time Olympic gold medallist Kerri Walsh Jennings, seeking a sixth Olympic appearance at the age of 42, earned a speedy win with her partner Brooke Sweat to reach the main draw of the penultimate Tokyo 2020 ranking beach volleyball tournament in Sochi.
The top seeds won 21-12, 21-13 against Poland’s Agata Ceynowa and Marta Lodej in the first of the second-round qualification matches, booking a spot in tomorrow's main draw.
The Sochi tournament is the fifth of six International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Beach Volleyball World Tour four-star events offering Olympic ranking points.
The tournament in Russia, which will conclude on Sunday (May 30), will be followed by one in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and the final Olympic rankings will be published on June 14 to determine the 15 highest-ranked teams per gender
Pairs from eight different countries claimed the eight women's main-draw vacancies today.
Lithuania’s Ieva Dumbauskaite and Gerda Grudzinskaite were the lowest-ranked team to push through to the main draw successfully.
Playing as 20th seeds in the qualification bracket, they started off with a hard-earned 21-19, 24-22 win over Norway’s Ingrid Lunde and Emilie Olimstad.
In the deciding round, Dumbauskaite and Grudzinskaite came back from a set down against fourth-seeded Spaniards Paula Soria and María Belén Carro to persevere through a tight tiebreaker and snatch a 10-21, 21-15, 16-14 victory.
After unsuccessful attempts to qualify to the main draw at the three recent four-star events in Cancun and a fifth-place finish at the one-star tournament in Sofia last week, this is the first time the Lithuanian pair will play in the main draw of a four-star tournament.
"It’s unbelievable!" Dumbauskaite told Volleyball World.
"It’s actually our first normal season together."
The last women’s match of the day saw Spain’s Amaranta Navarro and Angela Lobato earn a 21-12, 19-21, 15-13 win over home pairing Alexandra Moiseeva and Ekaterina Syrtseva.
Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam of The Netherlands, Brazil’s Taina Bigi and Victoria Tosta, Finland’s Riikka Lehtonen and Niina Ahtiainen, Canada’s Megan McNamara and Nicole McNamara and Germany’s Kim Behrens and Sandra Ittlinger were the other pairs who successfully made their way into tomorrow’s main draw.
In a men’s competition day full of spectacular three-setters, two Russian teams and representatives from seven other countries won the deciding qualification matches to fill in the eight available spots in the 32-team main draw .
Russia’s Daniil Kuvichka and Anton Kislytsyn were the home heroes of the day as they earned three-set wins over strong opponents to become the lowest-ranked pair to play in the main draw.
The 19th-seeded Russians came from behind to earn a 16-21, 21-19, 18-16 win over Brazil’s Renato Andrew and Vitor Felipe in the first round, and followed up with another comeback in the decider against third-seeded Canadians Ben Saxton and Grant O'Gorman, winning 20-22, 21-15, 15-12.
Nikita Liamin and Taras Myskiv, Russia’s top-seeded team in the qualification bracket, played only one match - a 15-21, 21-17, 15-5 win over Poland’s Maciej Rudol and Jakub Szalankiewicz.
Unfortunately, at 8-5 in the tiebreaker, Rudol sustained an injury, which prevented him from finishing the match.
Fourth-seeded Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer of Switzerland played only one game, beating rising Swedish stars David Åhman and Jonatan Hellvig 20-22, 21-18, 15-13.
Argentina’s Julian Amado Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso and eighth-seeded Norwegians Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen also reached the main draw, along with Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot of The Netherlands, Austria’s Robin Seidl and Philipp Waller and Brazil’s Gustavo Carvalhaes and Arthur Mariano.