Gstaad Major

Gstaad Major: Kerri Walsh Jennings, The “Queen of Gstaad” Off to Winning Start with Brooke Sweat

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The Queen of Gstaad.

That’s how Kerri Walsh Jennings was introduced at this week’s Gstaad Major, and for good reason. She’s making a record-tying 15th appearance at the event, which is nearly unanimously dubbed the favorite among players on the FIVB Tour.

“It’s almost like were pulling into home,” she said on the train to the tournament. “I’m so excited. My most favorite place in all the world aside from home. Life is good.”

And it remained good for the Queen, who began the event with a 21-15, 21-16 win over China’s Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue, securing her and Brooke Sweat a spot in the elimination rounds to come. First, however, they’ll see USC’s Tina Graudina, who represents Latvia, and Anastasija Kravcenoka, who upset Brazilians Fernanda and Barbara, 21-19, 21-19.

Wednesday was, across the board on the women’s side, an excellent start for the Americans, who went undefeated during the first round. April Ross and Alix Klineman, silver medalists at the Hamburg World Championships, beat Poland, 18-21, 22-20, 15-4. They’ll meet Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez for the top spot in pool.

Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who were stuck in one of the most difficult pools at World Champs, topped Russia, 21-15, 21-16 and will see Brazilians Agatha and Duda in the second round.

The men, in the meantime, had something of a fascinating beginning. Because of the way the country quota and qualifier worked out, with Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger brawling their way to a 16-21, 21-16, 20-18 win over Reid Priddy and Theo Brunner in the country quota, a 27-25, 22-20 win over Alex Ranghieri and Marco Caminati and a 21-14, 16-21, 15-11 win over Germany in the qualifier, three American teams wound up in the same pool.

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Budinger and Patterson and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb were all seeded into Pool D, along with the lone Latvian pair of Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs.

Dalhausser and Lucena won the civil war, beating both Patterson and Budinger and Gibb and Crabb to claim the top spot, with Budinger and Patterson to play Tocs and Plavins, who lost to Gibb and Crabb, for a potential lucky loser position.

The fourth American team, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, the highest-finishing U.S. pair in World Champs, were beat by Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst, 21-18, 21-13. They’ll have to beat Canadians Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton to break pool.

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