Laura Ludwig, Kira Walkenhorst, Polish Off Beach World Championship

  0 Braden Keith | August 05th, 2017 | Beach, FIVB Majors Series, FIVB World Tour, News, Pro Beach


Germany’s dynamic duo Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst have climbed the mountain once again and asserted their dominance as the world’s top female beach volleyball pairing. They beat Americans April Ross and Lauren Fendrick 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-9) in the championship match.

Their story is the stuff of legends, and completes the ‘grand slam’ of beach volleyball for the pair. Last year, they won the treble of a European Championship, Olympic gold medal, and World Tour finals, and have now added their first World Championship title. They also become the first German women, and 2nd German pair overall, to win gold at this event – following their compatriots Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann, who  won the men’s title in 2009.

But it’s not just the win that makes this story epic – it’s the tribulations that they’ve gone through since their 2016 sweep that make it so stunning. The two hadn’t placed any higher than 5th at any FIVB events this year as they worked on a tight 3-month time table to regain their form after Ludwig’s off-season shoulder surgery that’s left her wearing a bionic-looking harness.

“I really can’t believe it and we really wanted to do good here,” Walkenhorst said after the match. “We believed it and game by game we got better.  It was really tough against the Americans. They’re a good team, for sure. They haven’t played that long together right now. They were really good in this match and we played the first set and really had the focus on our reception. We had to work together and play our game.”

“We’re just happy to play together and find our self confidence together,” Ludwig said. “A lot of Germans came, a lot of Germans were cheering.  Every player loves it, to be on centre court.  It gave me goose bumps.”

And that’s what makes the Germans so powerful. They’ve gone from dominant, paradigm-shifting players, to underdogs, and back to the top of the world in the post-Olympic year where instability and change dominates. That’s what makes this a great story.

Ludwig/Walkenhorst (Germany) def. Ross/Fendrick (USA) 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-9)

Just like they did in the semi-finals, the Germans put big pressure on their American counterparts in the service game. In the first set, the Americans handled it and passed well, but as the match wore on, the American passing slipped enough to allow Germany the edge.

“It was one of our best serving games of the tournament,” Ludwig said. “After the break we said we can do better.  I think we can’t realize what we achieved the last 10 days.  We wanted to play as much as we can.”

Team Germany picked largely on the less-experienced Fendrick in the final (this is her first World Championships), and as the pressure increased, the passing faltered. Neither American hit better than 35% in the match, including just a combined 15% in the match.

Team USA was bailed out early thanks to 5 blocks in the first two sets from Fendrick, matched by 5 from Walkenhorst, but it’s nearly impossible to win a match when your opponents out-aces you 5-4 and out-hits you 56%-35%.

The Americans split their serves to the two Germans. Ludwig and Walkenhorst have no obvious weakness in the pairing, so the strategy seemed to be to not let either get into a good rhythm.

Ross said after the match that while she thinks she could have played better in the final, she’s happy with the progress the she and Fendrick have made – they also only have 3 months playing together this season after Ross split from her Olympic-bronze-medal-winning partner Kerri Walsh Jennings.

“I’ve always thought we had this potential. We could have played better in the final.” Ross said. “With the help of our coach (John Daze) we were real diligent in what we needed to do and followed the game plan well and used our strengths. We got better in each and every match. I’m kind of surprised with how much better we got with every single match. The amount we improved in this tournament is big but where we got to I knew that we could get to if that makes sense. (On any advice she gave Lauren): I think I said something like ‘Let’s have fun no matter what’ because I firmly believe when you put yourself in that position you should enjoy it and give your all. Don’t think of any what-ifs, you just put yourself out there. She has her own strong mentality and she’s going to go with that. Trying to change anybody is not a good idea before a match like that. I was proud of how we approached that match and it was an amazing atmosphere. I wish we would have played a little better but I’m going to come away thinking this was a really good experience.”

April Ross won the 2009 World Championship with then-partner Jennifer Kessy and lost the bronze medal match in 2013 with Whitney Pavlik.

Watch the full match replay, highlights, and post-match interviews below:

Larissa/Talita (Brazil) def. Pavan/Humana-Paredes (Canada) 2-1 (21-12, 16-21, 18-16)

The top seeds Larissa/Talita came up just short of their ultimate goal, but did finalize their spot on the podium with a win over Canada’s hot hands Pavan/Humana-Paredes.

“The event was amazing,” Talita said afterward. “I’m obviously not a 100% satisfied because the goal was to win the tournament, but I’m pleased about what we showed here. We go home happy because of the bronze medal.”

The Brazilians opened up strong in the first set, playing what Talita called “perfectly” to start the match.

In the second, however, Canada was electrict – landing 71% of their swings. Pavan landed 7 of her 8 shots, though, and the Brazilians started attackinig Humana-Paredes more. That strategy didn’t initially seem like it was going to pay off, as Canada finished off the 2nd set and won the first 5 points of the 3rd, but Brazil fought back and ran off the next 5 points. From there, it was a dash for the next 10 points that became the next 18.

A great rally on the final point led to an overpass by Humana-Paredes led to an over-on-two tip shot that fell for a point, a win, and a medal.

In spite of the loss, Pavan and Humana-Paredes’ 4th-place finish is the highest in Canadian beach volleyball history – another banner outcome in a banner year for Volleyball Canada in 2017.



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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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