Walsh, Ross Win in Xiamen

Oct. 27, 2013, 10 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 27, 2013) – Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross held off world No. 1 ranked Taiana Lima and Talita Da Rocha Antunes of Brazil in three sets on Sunday in Xiamen, China to win back-to-back FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Grand Slam titles.

April Ross, third from left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings, third from right, on the Xiamen podium
   April Ross, third from left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings, third
   from right, on the Xiamen podium.

The U.S. duo, who had captured the gold medal at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam two weeks ago and was seeded No. 5 at Xiamen, beat Lima and Talita, 21-14, 17-21, 15-12 in a 46-minute, three-set thriller in the final of the season-ending Grand Slam for their second championship in three World Tour events together.

With the victory, Walsh Jennings (Saratoga, Calif.) set the all-time record for tournament victories by a women’s beach player with 113. Prior to Xiamen, she had been tied with her former partner Misty May-Treanor at 112. Walsh Jennings also won her 21st Grand Slam title and took her 46th FIVB beach victory.

“My new partner is wonderful, in so many ways,” Walsh Jennings said. “She is such an amazing volleyball player. She makes my life on the court very very easy.

“Her energy is great, her target is great and her skills are unbelievable. So it’s going to be very fun partnership.”

Walsh Jennings admitted she has her sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she would be pursuing her fourth gold medal.

“Yes. We are going for gold for the next Olympic Games,” she said. “It’s fantastic. It’s such a great start. We are going to have a great off-season, and then go to work and come back next year even stronger and keep chasing our dreams.”

Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) was also excited about the success of her new combination with Walsh.

“I can’t say it’s what I expected necessarily, but it’s what I hoped for and we had to fight really hard,” said Ross, who had now six Grand Slam titles. “We didn’t start this tournament out very good, and we had to fight for every point and we got much better toward the end. I love starting our partnership with two gold medals, that’s amazing.”

After splitting the first two sets with the Brazilians, Ross and Walsh Jennings made two kills apiece to have a 4-0 lead in the tie-breaker. Lima and Talita fought back to pull to within 8-7. Then Walsh Jennings came up big with a dink and a block against Lima to lead a 4-1 run that pushed the Americans up, 12-8. Lima and Talita cut it to 14-12, only to have Walsh wrap up the match with a drop shot.

“We just got too excited and started playing too fast we made too many errors in the second game and they played better,” Walsh Jennings said. “In game three we took a deep breath and tried to play volleyball and it was a good result.”

“We attacked with our serve and without siding out. You know, we didn’t want to do too many shots or easy plays. We were trying to be really aggressive,” Ross said.

Earlier on Sunday, Germany’s fourth seeds Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst bounced back from a 21-15, 21-10 semifinal loss to Walsh Jennings and Ross to beat compatriots Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler, 21-15, 21-19 for the bronze medal. It was Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s third straight podium finish following two silver medals in Sao Paulo and Moscow.