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2017-07-28 20:14:00 CEST

Battle of the former champions!

April Ross, winner in 2009, went up against 2013 champion Xue Chen in the Red Bull Beach Arena

Being one of a select few to be a beach volleyball world champion is a special privilege for April Ross, a title she never gets tired of hearing upon introduction.

That latest rendition of her honor was heard by the bustling Red Bull Beach Arena crowd on Friday, but the American was not the only player on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by A1 stage to have that particular crown.

Ross and partner Lauren Fendrick took to the court alongside Wang Xinxin and Xue Chen on the opening day, with the latter teaming up with Zhang Xi to become the first Asian pair to ever lift the title back in Poland, in 2013.

The victory was to fall America’s way this time around, via a tense third set, opening Pool K in superb style to give the crowd a first-day treat that Ross in particular reveled in.

“There is so much excitement around the arena, and then when you get inside to see the main attraction everybody is buzzing, so there is a lot to enjoy,” she said.

“The Chinese girls are brilliant, Xue has a lot of experience and they provide a tough challenge.

“Hearing the intros of two world champions is so great, I respect Xue so much and I knew she would rise to the occasion. Whenever you’re at the World Championships it’s a huge honor, so to then win that is even higher and you get a rush from playing with and alongside other champions.

“It gives you a chill, I’m very grateful and lucky for everything I’ve accomplished. That win (with Jennifer Kessy in 2009) is right up there with all of my achievements and I’m really proud of it.

“But I don’t feel the pressure of it. It’s not going anywhere, nobody can take it away from me and every day provides its own new matches.”

But while Ross was relishing the presence of another world beater on court, Xue was keen to take the occasion in her stride whoever the opponent.

It was not to work this time around, losing their first match of the tournament, but with two more to come in the pool stages, the cause is far from without hope.

And Xue believes their opening performance has plenty of positives to build on, confident their tunnel mentality will come up trumps come the later stages.

“In that third set we made more mistakes, but for us this was better than we have played before,” she said. “We’ll be able to get more confidence from that for sure.

“We don’t think about them, whether they’re world champions or Olympic medallists, we don’t really think about that when we go out on the court.

“We just play our own game and keep our full focus on ourselves and nothing else, to make sure we play as well as we can.”

Fendrick and Ross are next in action on Sunday, at 5pm CET, against Australia’s Nicole Laird and Jessyka Ngauamo, live on BeachStream. Click here to sign-up!

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