China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi issued another challenge to beach volleyball's top duo in Finland. Their rivalry with top-seeded Brazilians Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva soared to another level during the final of the PAF Open in Mariehamn, Finland.
It was the third time both these pairs had reached the final. The Brazilians had won 41 matches in a row, and the third-seeded Xue Chen and Zhang Xi quickly found themselves behind 10-5 in the opening set. They saved two set points but eventually lost it 21-18.
But the Chinese pair roared back in the second set. Franca and Silva dropped behind and stayed there. Xue Chen and Zhang Xi plowed ahead for a decisive 21-12 win and forced a decider for the gold medal in Finland.
The two sides were tied at eight-all when Xue Chen and Zhang Xi edged into the lead and never looked back. Zhang Xi's spike on China's third match point clinched the win. It was the Chinese duo's second gold medal of the season after earning glory in Moscow on the fifth leg of fifteen on the tour. Larissa and Juliana had already won the season championship, but were denied a third PAF Open title.
Second seeded Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes, beat sixth seeded Vivian Cunha and Taiana Lima in the all-Brazil third-place match. They won their fourth bronze medal.