Eight teams progress to Laholm Main Draw under Sweden’s blue skies
Months of preparation were finally over, and the first-ever CEV Satellite for women on Swedish soil started on Thursday with the qualification round! The sun was shining and the skies were blue as the first game drew close.
The circumstances could not have been any better! Swedish fans had found their seats to see twin sisters Jenny Strålman/Therese Strålman face off against Germany’s Katarina Schillerwein and Cinja Tillmann. This proved to be a great challenge for the Swedish team, as the Germans sent tricky serves their way at every opportunity. The first set was over almost before it started, at 21-5 in favour of Schillerwein/Tillmann. After a much-needed break, the Swedes found new energy and decided to give their opponents a tougher task in the next set. Starting by winning the first six points in the second set, they showed the audience that they would not give in that easily. Schillerwein/Tillmann had to put all of their effort into winning the set back from Strålman/Strålman, and when they finally did so, the Swedish twins had no more aces up their sleeve. The game eventually ended in a comfortable 2-0 win for Germany (21-5, 21-12).
The second game of the day was an action-packed clash between young French team Lézana Placette/Aline Chamereau and Latvia’s Alise Lece/Marta Ozolina. The Latvian team got off to a good start, with nice serving from Ozolina bringing them to a 3-point lead. Placette/Chamereau were not disheartened, however and they slowly worked their way back into the game, celebrating every point as if it was the match point. Chamereau managed to control the offensive options for the Latvians by a couple of impressive digs when pulling off the net. Lece/Ozolina could not find any holes in the French defence, and will have to spend the rest of the weekend outside of the centre court in Mellbystrand, after losing 21-15, 21-16.
Danish team Cecilie Køllner Olsen/Laerke Mygind Grønfeldt was looking to deny experienced Russians Alexandra Moiseeva/Ekaterina Syrtseva a spot in the Main Draw, and the first set got their hopes up. Nasty serves and good digs made Russia sweat, and Olsen/Grønfeldt took the set 21-17. However, Moiseeva/Syrtseva were just getting started. They gained control of the Danish serves, and started to put the pressure on their opponents instead. A comfortable 21-10 victory for Russia later, the audience were able to witness the first three-setter of the day. Moiseeva/Syrtseva seemed to be able to stroll to an easy win early in the set, but Olsen/Grønfeldt were not yet surrendering. They managed to climb back to 11-11, but from there it went downhill. Finally, Russia moved on into the Main Draw, after winning the third set 15-12.
In the fourth game of the day, Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Anastasija Kravcenoka made short work of Greek team Panagiota Karagkouni/Konstantina Tsopoulou (21-17, 21-16). No team will be happy to face the Latvian duo after their impressive win on Thursday. Just shortly after, Martina Bonnerova/Sarka Nakladalova from the Czech Republic gained their ticket to the Main Draw by defeating Ilke Meertens/Annemieke Driessen from the Netherlands. The Dutch players just could not keep up with the intensity and force of Bonnerova/Nakladalova, with the Czechs rallying to a 21-16, 21-19 win.
Now five games into the day, the stands were filling up with curious spectators, and they could not have wished for a more thrilling game than the one between Switzerland’s Nicole Eiholzer/Dunja Gerson and Milena Matic/Marija Milosevic from Serbia. Matic/Milosevic quickly gained the advantage, and the Swiss team was struggling to keep their pace. When trailing 6-12 they finally decided to wake up. The gap between the two started shrinking, and suddenly Eiholzer/Gerson were on top. However, they could not close the set, despite having multiple opportunities to do so. In the last points of the set, Matic and Milosevic opted to go for tall blocker Eiholzer instead of the shorter Gerson, and catching her by surprise, they won the first set 24-22. The second set swung back and forth a couple of times, with many amazing rallies that gave the audience their money’s worth. At last, Switzerland took the set 21-19, and kept their chances alive for a little longer. The third sent went on in the same way, with unbelievable rallies back to back. Almost every point had the ball pass the net four or five times before hitting the sand. Eiholzer/Gerson could not stand their ground long enough. Matic/Milosevic’s better passing made them waste less energy, and in the end, they were the better team. The final score was 24-22, 19-21, 15-10.
Marija Milosevic: “What a game. This did not feel like a qualifier game, the level of play was so high. Both teams really deserved to be in the Main Draw. We were able to stay focused through all three sets and that brought us the win.” Milena Matic continued: “It feels great to be in the Main Draw, and now we just have to keep playing this well. It is a little bit windier than we are used to, but trying to adapt to different conditions is something we both enjoy. We will take a swim in the sea now and start preparing for tomorrow, and if we can play our best tomorrow it will not matter if we win or lose. The most important thing is to play our game.”
Next up was Denmark’s Helle Sondergård/Simone Marie Okholm and Scottish team Lynne Beattie/Melissa Coutts. This was truly a game of opposites. The Danish duo played with passion and charisma, whilst Beattie/Coutts played conservatively, smart and with patience. This time, passion beat patience, and Sondergård/Okholm beamed with confidence when they left the court, after winning 21-16, 21-10.
The last team to earn their place in the Main Draw was Eva Freiberger/Elisabeth Klopf from Austria. They lost the first set to Ida Sinisalo/Niina Ahtiainen from Finland, and the second set was almost in the bag for the young Finnish team, when Austria’s luck finally changed. After trailing 16-18 in the second set, they went on to turn the set around and then win the third set (14-21, 22-20, 15-8).
Friday marks the start of the Main Draw, and three Swedish teams are eager to make their debut on Mellbystrand’s centre court. The games start as early as at 8:30, and hopefully the conditions will be just as good as on Thursday. Stay tuned!
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