Beach Volleyball: Brazil's Antunes and Franca shine in first match

Sun Aug 7, 2016 4:50pm EDT
 
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By Amy Tennery

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian beach volleyball duo Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca swept aside their Russian opposition in two sets on Sunday, giving a strong push to their hopes of beating the United States to the gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Russia's Ekaterina Birlova and Evgenia Ukolova fell to Brazil 21-14 21-16 in Pool A, in front of a crowd of yellow-and-green-clad spectators who waved Brazilian flags and raucously cheered for the home-country favorites.

The pair represent Brazil's best shot at thwarting U.S. players April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings at the Games, after logging their fourth win in five FIVB world tour matches against the Americans last month.

While a potential meeting with Walsh Jennings, seeking her fourth successive Olympic gold, and Ross, looms large for Brazilian spectators, Franca said she and Antunes were concentrating on one game at a time.

"This moment we are not thinking about (Walsh Jennings and Ross) because it's not the next game," Franca, who won a bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, said through a translator. "So we just look for tomorrow's game."

Antunes was delighted with the win. "I'm so happy; it's a special moment," she said. "We trained so hard for this moment.

"For me, (Franca is) the best player in the world at this moment. I have the best player behind me."

Walsh Jennings and Ross thrashed Australian pair Mariafe Artacho Del Solar and Nicole Laird in a Pool C match that ended just after 1:00 a.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EDT) on Sunday.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

 
Talita Antunes (L) and Larissa Franca of Brazil celebrate after winning their Rio Open women's beach volleyball final match against compatriots Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 6, 2015. The Rio Open of beach volleyball is a test event for Rio 2016 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes