Russians Dabizha & Rudykh upset top-seeded Americans

Gstaad, Switzerland, July 9, 2019 - Two days after Russia captured the men's gold medals at the 2019 FIVB World Championships in Germany, a women's team from the transcontinental country defeated the top-seeded team in a FIVB World Tour qualifier here Tuesday to advance to the main draw rounds at the Swatch Major Gstaad.

With the Swatch Major Gstaad qualifier featuring 13 women's pairs that competed last week in the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg, 17th-seeded Ksenia Dabizha and Daria Rudykh of Russia ousted top-seeded Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil of the United States with a 2-0 (21-18, 26-24) victory in 39 minutes.

It was the 24-year-old Dabizha and 22-year-old Rudykh's second win of the Swatch Major Gstaad qualifier after the pair posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-19) opening win Tuesday morning over 16th-seeded Phoebe Bell and Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia in the first centre court match in the Swiss Alps village.

"That was an exhausting match as the Americans fought to the end in the second set," said Dabizha about their victory over Claes and Sponcil, who placed ninth at the FIVB World Championships. "We are thrilled about moving on to the main draw. What a relief as we defeated two very good teams today."

Tuesday’s second round elimination win in the qualifier also avenged a setback to another American team 27 days ago in Poland where Dabizha and Rudykh's missed qualifying for the Warsaw main draw after losing to Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman as the top-seeded pair in the qualifier posted a 2-0 (21-17, 21-7) win in 30 minutes over the Russians.

The Swatch Major Gstaad is Dabizha and Rudykh's ninth World Tour event together as the pair captured an FIVB gold medal on May 12 in Vietnam and a bronze medal on June 2 in China. The Russians have now played in six World Tour qualifiers with the Gstaad advancement their third success.

The 20th Swatch Major Gstaad continues through Sunday when the women’s medal matches will be played where the winning team splits the $40,000 first-place prize. Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada captured the 2018 Swatch Major Gstaad title and will be seeking to validate their newly-minted World Championship gold medals.

Canadian world champions Sarah Pavan (left) and Melissa Humana-Paredes will be seeking their second gold medal in Gstaad

Overall, six of the 13 women’s teams from the World Championships advanced to the Swatch Major Gstaad main draw, including second-seeded Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil, third-seeded Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia, fourth-seeded Tina Graudina/Anastasija Kravcenoka of Latvia, sixth-seeded Xinxin Wang/Chen Xue of China and the German pairs of seventh-seeded Margareta Kozuch/Laura Ludwig and eighth-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider.

Securing the next-to-last berth in the Swatch Major Gstaad women’s main draw were fifth-seeded Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil.  Competing in her sixth FIVB World Tour since returning to international competition after giving birth to her first child last June, Talita has captured three gold medals in Gstaad with Maria Antonelli in 2009, and back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 with Larissa Franca.


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