Montreux, Switzerland, June 4, 2016: the final of the 2016 Montreux Masters will be an all Asian bout between Thailand and China, both dramatically prevailing after tiebreaks in their respective semi-finals on an emotional Super Saturday in Montreux. Belgium and Brazil bow out on a high meanwhile having secured fifth and seventh place in their classification playoffs.
A clash between two differing styles of play, the semi-final Thailand and Turkey served up was a stunning performance of nail-biting, heart-stopping drama. Both teams dazzled the crowd in a show of radiance and masterclass, Thailand taking the first and third sets and Turkey snatching the second and fourth to set up a tense tiebreak. The whole match epitomised what this prestigious volleyball showcase stands for, a fascinating showdown wrought with brilliance. The flair and craft of Thailand, inspired by Ajcharaporn Kongyot, eventually overcame the persistence and creativity of the Turks 3:2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 16-25, 19-17). The Thais hit match point at the fourth time of asking, the ball flying out of play taking the slightest of touches from a Turkish player. Both teams walked off to rapturous applause from the capacity crowd with contrasting emotions; tears of despair on one bench and tears of ecstasy on the other. Thailand will fight for the gold medal on their Montreux debut, whilst Turkey’s title defence is over.
The emotional rollercoaster of the first semi-final made way for China and the Netherlands to take to the court with a place in the final at stake. They served up another magnificent show, the passion and desire of both teams evident throughout a gripping tie. Gong Xiangyu was once more the star for China plundering a phenomenal 26 points for her team, Celeste Plak and Judith Pietersen the driving forces in the Dutch ranks. It was another rollercoaster semi-final showpiece, the Netherlands taking the first and third sets and China the second and fourth in a late-night humdinger. Montreux was in for the long haul yet again, but the tiebreak was all China, the tiring “Oranje” in freefall as the Asians spiked and smashed their way to a 15-9 tiebreak victory and a 3:2 win (20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 15-9), Zhang Xiaoya hitting home to break Dutch hearts and propel the Asians to the final. The Netherlands will now face Turkey in a battle for the bronze medal.
Before the semi-finalists stepped into the limelight, the classification fixtures were the first order of the day to determine the official rankings of the Montreux Masters. Brazil faced hosts Switzerland first with seventh place on offer, and the hosts’ dismal campaign didn’t get any better as the ruthless Brazilians, with Rosamaria Montibeller’s 17 points, scythed them down in a comfortable 3:0 (25-6, 25-18, 25-21) win to settle the tie with minimal fuss.
The last of the classification fixtures saw Belgium find some consolation in missing out on the semi-finals, as they showed grit and guile to secure fifth place against Serbia. They would do it the hard way, squeezing past the Serbs after a tiebreak having thrown away a two-set lead. But brilliant Britt Herbots and Opposite Lise Van Hecke held the aces for Belgium, both putting in strong performances to help the Yellow Tigers edge out an absorbing match 3:2 (25-22, 27-25, 21-25, 18-25, 15-8).
Sunday’s action will now draw a close to the 2016 competition, with the Bronze Medal match taking place at 1:30pm CET before the grand finale at 4:00pm. With these two finalists having shown their quality on court on Saturday, Sunday’s final is sure to be a breath-taking, action-packed struggle. A worthy end to the carnival of volleyball on the shores of Lac Léman.as the multitude of fans wait to discover who will be crowned 2016 Montreux Volley Masters champions.