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2018-07-13 11:33:00 CET

Joy for Japan!

Happiness happening for Ishii/Murakami

Ishii/Murakami have lit up the Swatch Major GstaadIshii/Murakami have lit up the Swatch Major Gstaad

With Tokyo 2020 two years away, interest in Japanese beach volleyball is on the up – and the land of the rising sun could have two new heroes after Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami stormed into the last 16 of the Swatch Major Gstaad.

The pair, who won their first World Tour gold medal in Korea last season, have been in brilliant form in the mountains, coming through qualifying and reaching the knockout stages. On Friday morning the duo stunned Fort Lauderdale silver medalists Carolina Horta and Taiana Lima in straight sets.

It means the Japanese have now equaled their best-ever World Tour performance of fifth in Long Beach in 2016. Miki and Megumi have already beaten the USA’s Emily Day and Lauren Fendrick in the Alps and they go in search of a place in the quarterfinals when take on Germany’s Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider.

Beach Volleyball Major Series on Twitter

We ❤️ these girls! 🇯🇵 Congratulations @IshiiMurakami - through to the #GstaadMajor last 16! https://t.co/ZHlh08WnYM

It wasn’t to be double delight for Japan, however, as Miki and Megumi’s teammates, Azusa Futami and Akiko Hasegawa lost their first elimination round clash against the USA’s Summer Ross and Sarah Hughes.

In other matches on the first day of women’s knockout competition, reigning champions Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude made it through after a straight sets win over Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh. And three German teams will contest the last 16 after Maggie Kozuch and Karla Borger were also victorious.

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