TOKYO (Reuters) – Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch beat Brazil’s pair 2-1 in the best of 16 in the women’s beach volleyball in Tokyo, keeping alive German hopes of a second consecutive gold medal in the sport.
The match between the Germans led by Ludwig, 35, and Brazil’s pair led by Agatha Bednarczuk, 38, was the highlight of Sunday’s eliminations round and a repeat of the Rio Olympics final where Germany triumphed.
The match was held at a temporarily built outdoor arena at the Shiokaze Park at Tokyo’s waterfront, with buzzing cicadas and blaring pop music echoing through the empty arena. Beach volleyball image is usually one of the most crowd-drawing sports overseas.
Sunday’s match turned into a fierce seesaw game with the lead changing hands time and time again.
“We knew it’s gonna be a close match, we knew they are gonna be really tough to play … We had to have especially enough patience against a really good team,” Ludwig told reporters.
Germany’s Rio gold medallist Ludwig and her post-Rio partner Kozuch, 34, took the first set 21-19, but Brazil’s Rio silver medallist Bednarczuk and her post-Rio partner Eduarda Santos Lisboa “Duda”, 23, quickly won back the second set 21-19.
Throughout the match, Ludwig played a central part in offence with strong spiking, while the 188cm-tall Kozuk received and blocked.
The final third set went to the German pair 16-14.
In the men’s round of 16, Tokyo gold medal contender Christian Sorum of Norway, 25, and Anders Mol, 24, defeated Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen 2-0 to advance into the quarters.
Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan beat U.S. pair Philip Dalhausser and Nicholas Lucena 2-1 to make it to quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson won against U.S. Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil 2-1 to advance into the quarter-finals. The pair will face Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka on Tuesday, who defeated Russia Olympic Committee’s Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kkholomina.
Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Silva dismissed 2-0 China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia. The pair will face on Tuesday Swiss Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich, who smashed Swiss Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart.
Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy beat China’s Xue Chen and Wang Xinxin 2-0.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Hugh Lawson)