Home players Yurika Sakaguchi and Chiyo Suzuki chose a good moment to earn their first place in a main draw at a four or five-star event on the international beach volleyball circuit this season as they progressed from qualifying at the Tokyo Open - a test event for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The Japanese pairing, seeded eighth at this crucial $300,000 (£240,000/€ 269,000) International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) event, earned a 17-21, 24-22, 15-12 win over ninth-seeded Phoebe Bell and Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia to advance to this week's four-star main draw at the Tokyo 2020 venue of Shiokaze Park.
"We are delighted with our play today," said Sakaguchi, 25.
"We were on the brink of elimination in the second set with the Australians, but we stayed calm and were able to force the third set.
“To advance to a World Tour main draw in our country is tremendous, especially with this event attracting a lot of attention as an Olympic test for 2020."
Other teams qualifying for the women's Tokyo Open main draw were top-seeded Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado and third-seeded Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima from Brazil, second-seeded Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil of the United States, fourth-seeded Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue of China.
Fifth-seeded Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider of Germany, 10th-seeded Aline Chamereau and Alexandra Jupiter of France and 11th-seeded Khanittha Hongpak and Varapatsorn Radarong of Thailand also progressed.
In men’s qualifying on the opening day, Austrians Tobias Winter and Julian Horl won both their matches to lead seven other teams from five countries into the main draw.
The 15th-seeded Austrians earned a 21-17, 21-14 win over 18th-seeded home pairing Hitoshi Murakami and Takashi Tsuchiya and three hours later beat second-seeded Vitor Felipe and Pedro Solberg of Brazil 21-16, 22-20.
"What a great day for us," said the 25-year-old Winter.
"It was hot and humid out there and we were able to handle the conditions to post two wins.”
China and Germany qualified two teams each from the men’s event, advancing along with pairs from Brazil, France and the United States.
Brazil will be represented by top-seeded Saymon Barbosa and Gustavo "Guto" Carvalhaes of Brazil.
The men’s and women’s finals will be played on Sunday, when the winning pairs will earn $20,000 (£16,000/€18,0000) first-place prizes along with 800 qualifying points for the Tokyo 2020 Games.