05.07.2019 - Hamburg
It was hard to believe Alix Klineman was playing in her first ever World Championship semi-final. Nerves of steel, oozing class and confidence. It was her display of strong serving and cat-like reflexes of the net that helped her and teammate April Ross reach their first ever World Championship final.
Of course 29-year-old Klineman was not alone on the court and Ross, the 37-year-old veteran was wily at the back of the court, mopping up every loose play by their Australian opponents, Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar.
The Americans’ performance across every grain of sand paved the way for a 21-15, 21-18 victory, and one which meant Ross will, on Saturday, play in her third World Championship final and the second in succession.
Ross won gold in 2009 with Jennifer Kessy. Thursday was the 10-year anniversary of that triumph in Stavanger. Here in Hamburg, Kessy is aiming to help the A-Team win gold for she is the tandem’s coach.
And that was the post-match theme: glowing tributes for everyone involved – although realizing the job is yet to be done.
“Jen has done so much for us,” said April, who earned silver in Vienna two years ago with Lauren Fendrick. “She prepares so much for us. We played really well in this game, an aggressive way without hesitation.”
Yet Ross was glowing in her thoughts on Klineman’s classy performance that prevented Artacho and Clancy any easy points or a soft lead at any point during the two-set win.
“Alix came out and served with fire,” Ross said. “She was a huge presence at the net. It just felt like everything was clicking for us.”
Having got this far, and made top-class opposition look mediocre in a semi-final of this magnitude the pair now have eyes on gold.
“If we can play with the same on Saturday, with the same attitude, intensity and aggression we have a great shot,” added Ross.
Losing a semi-final is always tough and the Australians, who lost in the World Tour Finals at this stage 12 months ago, will now aim to do the same and win bronze.
“It’s hard, we just never got going so,” said an emotional Clancy. “We can’t afford to be down about it, we must prepare to go for bronze.”