2017-08-05 11:51:00 CEST
Ludwig/Walkenhorst and Fendrick/Ross do battle to be crowned world champions
107 matches across nine thoroughly-entertaining days on the Danube Island and it all comes down to this: the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by A1 women’s final.
In just a few hours Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and America's Lauren Fendrick and April Ross will do battle to be crowned gold medalists – boasting the honor of being best in the world in the process.
Forgotten how we got to this point? Fear not, as we recap their tournaments so far, dating all the way back to the very first serve, block and spike.
Germans hit top form in Vienna
Winning 14 sets out of the 15 they’ve played, Ludwig and Walkenhorst have certainly been quick off the blocks in this competition.
That began in Pool D with three wins over the course of four days, with compatriots Nadja Glenkze and Julie Grossner the only team to take a set off the Olympic and European champions.
Their bid to complete the triple crown showed no signs of stopping too, easing into the quarter-finals with straight sets wins over Fan Wang and Yuan Yue from China followed by Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, the up-and-coming Americans.
But the best was still to come from the German powerhouses, defeating another US pair in Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat, 21-15 21-14 under the glare of the Red Bull Beach Arena to reach the semi-finals.
And if that wasn’t enough, Ludwig/Walkenhorst – who finished fifth in 2013 – knocked out 2011 champion Larissa and her top-seed partner Talita, taking their places in the final with a stunning 21-19 21-16 win, befitting their match domination.
They also have the better head-to-head record against the Americans, winning their one and only meeting in the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in 2015.
Fendrick and Ross show their resolve
They may not have started all of their matches how they would have liked, but Fendrick and Ross have undoubtedly shown how strongly they can bounce back.
The Americans have lost the first set in three of their seven matches, but with victories in all of them, they’ll take a win in any way they can.
That begun with a tough three-set battle in their opening Pool K match against Xinxin Wang and Chen Yue, following that up with more convincing wins over Australian pairs.
An all-American affair against Nicole Branagh and Emily Day greeted their knockout stages, recovering from a first set 21-10 struggle to win the decider, doing the same against sixth seeds Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova to reach the quarter-finals.
Their most comprehensive match came next against Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, but it was in the semi-final where they really needed to pull out all the stops.
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