The final event of the FIVB Swatch major series kicked off Monday in Gstaad, Switzerland. Located in the Swiss alps with a population of 9,200, it is perhaps an unlikely location for the longest continuous event on the FIVB tour, now in its 18th season.
Gstaad has a $600,000 purse to match. It may also be the most complete field of 2017, since four-time Olympic medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh join the main draw courtesy of a wild card. They lost their country-quota match a week ago in Porec, their first competition together.
Among the winners Monday in the country-quota matches were Americans Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman. They knocked out Brittany Hochevar and Emily Day in the country quota match 31-29, 21-19 advancing to the qualifier as the No. 6 seed. Hochevar and Day were the ones who ousted Walsh Jennings and Branagh.
Pedro Solberg and Gustavo Carvalhaes may have won FIVB Porec on Sunday, but they still had to hustle to Gstaad and then win a country-quota match. They advanced to the qualification rounds Monday after defeating countrymen George Wanderley and Vitor Felipe 21-16, 14-21, 15-12.
The tournament is headlined by the top eight seeds expected to win their pools and earn first-round byes in the elimination playoffs: No. 1 Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes, No. 2 Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa, No. 7 Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves of Brazil, No. 3 Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic, No. 4 Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada, No. 5 Chantal Laboreur and Julia Sude of Germany, No. 6 Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat of the United States, and No. 8 Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli of Switzerland.
Brazil dominates the top eight on the men’s side as well, with No. 1 Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa, No. 5 Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola, No. 7 Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt. The remainder of the top eight are No. 2 Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo of Italy, No. 3 Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the USA, No. 4 Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia, No. 6 Nikita Liamin and Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia, and No. 8 Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland.
Solberg and Carvalhaes have a difficult road through qualification as they will face the winner of Robin Seidl and Tobias Winter of Austria and Armin Dollinger and Jonathan Erdmann of Germany. The Austrians upset Dalhausser and Lucena 21-17, 22-20 in last week’s pool play in Porec, while the Germans finished fourth in Xiamen.
Other main draw USA participants include No. 11 April Ross and Lauren Fendrick, No. 12 Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, and No. 22 Walsh-Jennings/Branagh. In the men’s competition, the USA features No. 11 Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, No. 12 Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner, and wild cards No. 22 Sean Rosenthal and Trevor Crabb.
The USA’s Ryan Doherty and John Hyden hope to join the main draw through qualification as the top seed in the qualifier. DiCello and Stockman will need to defeat the winner of Nicole Laird and Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia and Cornelia Rimser and Lena Plesiutschnig of Australia to advance to main-draw pool play.
Brazil’s Taiana Lima and Elize Maia are the final members of the qualifier after defeating Josi Alves and Liliane Maestrini (25-27, 21-14, 15-9) and Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado (21-12, 21-17) in country quota play Monday. They will face the winner of Tatyana Mashkova and Bakhtygul Samaklikova of Kazahkstan against Alexandra Jupiter and Ophelie Lusson of France.
The tournament format is round-robin pool play on Wednesday through Friday followed by single-elimination playoffs Friday through Sunday, with eight pools per gender. Twenty-four main draw teams await the eight survivors of the country-quota and qualification matches Monday and Tuesday.
Qualification play Tuesday begins with Mashkova and Samaklikova against Jupiter and Lusson at 10 a.m. local time, 4 a.m. Eastern.