Montreux, Switzerland, May 31, 2016 – Volleyball fans flocking to the shores of Lac Léman for the opening day of the 2016 Montreux Volley Masters, the 31st edition of the prestigious invitational tournament, were not left disappointed, bearing witness to a superb display by some of the tournament favourites, with big opening wins for Serbia, China and a first major upset at the hands of Belgium.
Serbia set the benchmark for their counterparts in the opening game with a composed display against host nation Switzerland in Pool A. The Serbs, silver medallists at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup, were quick out of the blocks and comfortably eased to their first win of the campaign in straight sets 3-0 (25-10, 25-19, 25-17) against their young opponents. A sterling performance from Maja Savic, racking up 12 points for her team, helped send the Serbs on their way to a comprehensive victory. Other standout performers included Sanja Malagurski and Mina Popovic, who registered nine points each.
The action switched over to Pool B for the other two games of the day, and after the telling statement sent out by the Serbs, World Cup winners China set about making their own mark on the tournament in response. They did so in some style, overcoming world No.2 Brazil in a deserved 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-22) victory. They were forced to work hard for their win and show their quality as champions in an entertaining encounter, featuring some spectacular rallies, great blocks and lethal spiking; to the thrill of the partisan crowd that turned out for the match. Captain Hui Ruoqi, making her comeback for the national team, and teammate Xiangyu Gong were the stars in an all-round masterclass performance, the duo amassing 16 points each for China. If they can replicate this form throughout the tournament then the Chinese, on this showing, may well live up to their billing as contenders for the Montreux Masters title.
The late fixture saw defending champions Turkey take to the court in a thrilling showdown with Belgium. The “Yellow Tigers”, inspired by Volley Bergamo’s Freya Aelbrecht, were not out to show the Turks any respect and set about dismantling any illusions that a second straight title at Montreux would be an easy feat. Turkey started sluggishly, losing the first set 24-26. This set the tone for the rest of the match, and it was to go the distance after Turkey fought back to take the second set. Montreux was in for the long haul, and it was the Belgians who ultimately prevailed with Aelbrecht, who scored 23 points alone, and Lise Van Hecke playing starring roles in a sensational 3:1 (26-24, 16-25, 25-21, 25-13) win to claim the first major scalp of the competition.
After a fantastic opening day in Montreux, the immense quality displayed on court shows little sign of relenting. The action continues tomorrow at 16:30 CET with hosts Switzerland looking to bounce back against the Netherlands, before Turkey, after their shock defeat, will look to kick-start their campaign against the Chinese in the 18:45 fixture. The day’s action will be rounded off at 21:15 by Thailand’s first appearance this year against opening day victors Serbia, who will be out for vengeance for their defeat by the Thais during last year's FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. With two teams still to be seen, and more of these mouth-watering fixtures yet to be played, there is every reason to believe that the best is yet to come at this famous old competition.