The women’s semifinals of the third and last FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star event in the Cancun Hub reunited four of the top five teams in the World Rankings and after a pair of electrifying matches on Saturday evening, Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa are set to play for the gold medal of the final event at Playa Delfines on Sunday.
The winners of the 2019 4-star Chetumal Open, which was played nearly 400 kilometers south of Cancun, Clancy and Artacho del Solar had a pair of strong performances on Saturday to appear in the final for the first time since that same tournament, nearly 18 months ago.
Ranked fifth in the world, the Australians opened the day with a 2-0 (21-11, 21-17) quarterfinal win against Cubans Lidiannis ‘Lidy’ Echeverria and Yanisleidis Sanchez and followed it up with another two-set victory (21-11, 21-15), this one against Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman, who rank second in the world, in the semifinals.
It was the third victory for the bronze medallists of the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in five matches between the two teams, who had met in the first two tournaments in Mexico, with the Australians knocking Ross and Klineman out in the Round of 16 of the first, and the Americans sending Clancy and Artacho del Solar home at the same stage of the second tournament.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Clancy commented. “We’ve done such a great job. We haven’t performed at our best in the first two events but we knew it was coming and we’re just so happy to be back in the final.”
Agatha and Duda, on the other hand, will play in their second final in 2021 after taking the gold medal of the second tournament in Cancun last Monday. The Brazilians, who also have two bronzes, are sure to be the only team to win medals in each of the first four events of the season and could become the first duo to take two golds in the year.
They started Saturday coming from behind to defeat Dutch qualifiers Marleen van Iersel and Pleun Ypma in three sets (15-21, 21-9, 15-11) in the quarterfinals and ended the day with a 2-1 (21-15, 20-22, 16-14) semifinal victory against reigning world champions and world ranking leaders Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada.
Ranked third in the world, Agatha and Duda are set to play Clancy and Artacho del Solar for just the fourth time and the Australians have won two of the first three meetings, most notably a bronze medal match in Xiamen, China, in 2018.
"The last time we played them was in Ostrava almost two years ago and a lot has changed since then," said Agatha, a Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist. "We have a lot of film from them here in Cancun and we'll watch all of it. The key is to rest and study them because that's one thing our coaching staff does really well, analysing our opponent's games and preparing us."
Sunday's schedule in Cancun will feature only the medal matches and they will both be streamed live on the Beach Volleyball World Youtube channel. Subscribe, log in and set reminders to receive notifications when streams begin.
Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy play in the gold medal match tomorrow morning at 7am AEST.