Cheng/Hughes and Duda/Ana Patrícia to play for Tepic gold
Americans and Brazilians set to collide for the Elite16 title in Mexico – watch on VBTV
Publicado 03:28, 26 Mar 2023
The Americans, who are one win away from winning their fourth title in the last five events they played, and the Brazilians, who are the reigning world champions and sit at the top of the FIVB World Rankings, will clash at 15:00 local time (22:00 UTC) at the Amado Nervo Auditorium. Italy’s Marta Menegatti/Valentina Gottardi and Australia’s Taliqua Clancy/Mariafe Artacho will play for bronze at 12:30 local time (19:30 UTC).
Cheng and Hughes made it to the final in Tepic with a flawless campaign, as the Americans have won each of the five matches they played in Mexico this week and are yet to drop a single set in the tournament.
The two started the elimination rounds with an emphatic two-set (21-14, 21-19) victory over Brazilians Bárbara Seixas and Carol Salgado and were strongly challenged by Menegatti and Gottardi in the semifinals, but managed to top the Italians also in straight sets (30-28, 21-19).
“Our game plan going into the match was just to be really aggressive and stick with our strategy,” Hughes commented. “That’s an amazing team, we have great respect for them and they played lights out. We’re so happy and excited that we’re going to the final. The atmosphere here is amazing, we love playing in Mexico.”
Playing in only the fifth international tournament since they became partners for the second time in their careers, in November 2022, the Americans have advanced to their fourth final after their reunion. Cheng and Hughes haven’t lost a gold medal match yet together, having won last year’s year’s Challenge and Elite16 events in Torquay and the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals, played in Doha, at the end of January.
“The chemistry is back and it’s been really cool,” Cheng reacted. “We took a little five-year break, but we’re back together and it’s just been amazing. I’m excited to see what we can do together. We’re going to leave everything on the court tomorrow and have some fun.”
Duda and Ana Patrícia haven’t been as dominant as the Americans this week in Mexico as they dropped a pool play match to compatriots Carol and Bárbara on Friday and won two tie-breakers on their way to the final in Tepic. However, their results as a team have been just as strong as the Americans' as the Brazilians have stepped on the podium in seven of their last eight Beach Pro Tour events with three golds, one silver and three bronzes.
On Saturday, however, the reigning world champions gave a big display of strength, eliminating Dutch Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam, who are second in the World Rankings, with a three-set (18-21, 21-18, 16-14) win in the quarterfinals and downing Tokyo Olympic silver medallists Clancy and Mariafe in straight sets (21-17, 21-19) in the semifinals.
“We're very happy to be in the final,” Ana Patrícia said. “That's our goal and that's what we work for every day. I'm happy that we were able to win our matches today and I think that our performances in these two matches are a reflection of how much we were able to improve during the tournament.”
The Tepic final will also be a rematch of the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals gold medal match, which saw the Americans prevail over the Brazilians in the only encounter between the teams so far.
“I expect a big final against the Americans,” Duda added. “We'll need to be as focused tomorrow as we were today. Having a strong side out game will be very important. They like to play fast and are very difficult to defend against, but we'll prepare to do our best .”