BPT Saquarema - Women Main Draw - BRAvsAUT2_15

Tainá on offence as Victoria and her advance to the semifinals

A month after winning their first medals at the Volleyball Beach Pro Tour in La Paz, Brazilians Tainá Bigi and Victoria Lopes will have another shot at making it to the podium in the 2023 season on Sunday, when they’ll compete in the medal rounds of the Saquarema Challenge.

The two will play in the semifinal round at the Campo de Aviação against compatriots Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria Rodrigues at 10:30 local time (13:30 UTC), while Italy’s Marta Menegatti/Valentina Gottardi and Lithuania’s Monika Paulikiene/Aine Raupelyte will meet one hour earlier. The gold medal match in Brazil is scheduled for 16:30 local time (19:30 UTC), with the contest for bronze beginning two hours earlier.

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Tainá, 27, and Victoria, 23, started the Beach Pro Tour season by taking bronze at the La Paz Challenge in March, but had to settle for ninth last week in Itapema. Undefeated with four wins and only one set dropped in Saquarema, they are again in the mix for medals this weekend.

The Brazilians had arguably their most challenging day in the tournament on Saturday, but responded well, downing Germans Laura Ludwig and Louisa Lippmann in straight sets (21-16, 21-19) in the Round of 16 and prevailing over Swiss Zoé Vergé-Dépré and Esmée Böbner in the tie-breaker (16-21, 21-16, 19-17) in the quarterfinals.

“Both matches were really difficult,” Tainá commented. “Ludwig is a legend of our sport and a phenomenal player, but I think we did a very good job of keeping the match under control. The Swiss were coming from an excellent result (fourth) last week in Itapema and were obviously very confident. We had a slow start, but helped each other a lot in order to overcome the obstacles and get the win.”

The two are used to going to Saquarema, which houses the Brazilian Federation Training Centre and hosted some stops of the Brazilian Tour in the past, but were excited by the support coming from the stands in the first two days of competition at the Campo de Aviação.

“We’ve been in Saquarema several times before but I had never played with fans here and it’s been a lot of fun,” the 27-year-old blocker commented. “The crowd has been by our side since our first match and they were absolutely a factor today, bringing us the motivation and the confidence to keep fighting until the end.”

Their semifinal opponents, compatriots Andressa and Vitoria had a lighter day in Saquarema on Saturday. The Brazilians won their Round of 16 match against Japanese Miki Ishii and Sayaka Mizoe by forfeit and needed only two sets (22-20, 21-18) to overcome Polish Jagoda Gruszczysnka and Aleksandra Wachowicz in the quarterfinals.

The other semifinal of the Saquarema Challenge will reunite two teams from Europe. Italians Menegatti and Gottardi, who are fresh from making it to the semifinals of the Tepic Elite16 last month, are in the Final Four again after they won a pair of matches on Saturday – topping French Lézana Placette and Alexia Richard 2-0 (23-21, 22-20) in the Round of 16 and Brazilians Talita Antunes and Thamela Coradello also in two sets (21-15, 23-21) in the quarterfinals.

The sensations of the Saqurema Challenge, Lithuanian qualifiers Paulikiene and Raupelyte caused two upsets on their way to the semifinals on Saturday. The Europeans had a big win over Chinese Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia, the winners of last week's Itapema Challenge, in the Round of 16, prevailing in the tie-breaker (19-21, 21-13, 15-9), and then got the best of Spanish Liliana Fernandez and Paula Soria in the quarterfinals, triumphing in two close sets (26-24, 22-20).