Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross' first match together could not have gone better. The newly minted duo wiped away a young Australian duo, Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho, in the opening day for beach volleyball at Rio 2016.
Walsh-Jennings is half of the duo that has dominated beach volleyball for more than a decade, but her longtime partner Misty May-Treanor has chosen retirement. Walsh-Jennings will follow, but she's not ready to retire until after going for one more gold medal in Rio. Joining her is Ross, an American who had a silver finish in London 2012, losing to that aforementioned duo.
Walsh-Jennings and Ross quickly jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the first set, eventually besting Australia with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-13) win. It clearly looked like Walsh-Jennings and Ross were the duo to beat in the Olympics once again, as the Australians consistently challenged Walsh-Jennings at the line but struggled getting the ball past her. Walsh-Jennings is undefeated in the Olympics, winning all 21 matches, and she's 42-1 overall in all tournament matches.
Walsh-Jennings had shoulder injuries last year leading up to Rio 2016, but she looked great on Saturday, like it wouldn't even be a problem for her. That's good. Nobody wanted one of the greatest beach volleyball players to be hampered in the Olympics, but if Saturday is any indication, she's as good as she has ever been.
Controversy surrounds the final point of China vs. Switzerland
Leading 14-12, China lost the game point to Switzerland on a back-and-forth volley, only to challenge the call and win it. It was a strange call, since Swiss Anouk Vergé-Dépré did clearly run into the net, but not before China hit it on a swing. Strangely, the replay official gave the point to China anyway.
However, in a correct but unprecedented decision, Switzerland argued the call and convinced the match official to reverse the call, giving them one final chance in the third overtime set. China easily won that point, leading to a 2-1 (24-22, 18-21, 15-12) win that removed any complaints that Switzerland might have had about the originally controversial call. It was a strange ending, as the reversed call disrupted a taped NBC segment and forced the broadcast to revert back for China to confirm their win. However, neither side can truly complain after the end results.
Straight sets dominate the rest of the matches
Denmark beat Germany in the men's beach volleyball preliminaries in straight sets, while a Netherlands duo topped Russia in similar fashion. Nine of the 12 beach volleyball matches played in the opening day of play on Saturday were two-set affairs, with only the controversial China vs. Switzerland, plus a couple other sets, going into an extra third set. The full results are right here.
Ross and Walsh-Jennings will play their next match on Tuesday against China, the winners of the match noted above against the Swiss.
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