Beach volleyball: Tour returns to South Island

The New Zealand beach volleyball tour returns to the South Island for the first time in 10 years with the opening round at Christchurch's Sumner Beach on January 3-4.

The six-round tour which ends with the New Zealand Open in Auckland on January 23-25 has attracted six international pairs for the men's draw and another five for the women's competition.

New Zealand's top hopes for the men's event will be Kirk Pitman and Jason Lochhead who scored two top four finishes in this year's world tour.

They became the first Kiwi team ever to make a world tour semifinal finishing fourth at the Klagenfurt Grand Slam event in Austria in August and went one better at the next round in Norway with third at the Otera Open. They are ranked 21st in the world.

In the women's section, former Silver Fern Anna Scarlett and Susan Blundell who debuted on the world tour in 2008 with a best finish of 13th at Norway, will be looking to improve on the three finals they made at Matarangi, Wellington and Auckland last season.

Heading the international men's line-up are French brothers Kevin and Andy Ces, ranked 13th in the world.

Others competing are Austrians Daniel Hupfer and Paul Schroffengger who are ranked in the world's top 50, Dutch combination Timko Lokerse and Bart Bolsterlee, Germany's Raimund Wenning and Stefan Schmeckenbecher, Swiss Hannes Wyder and Raffael Bissig and Americans Matt Prosser and Dane Jensen.

Heading the women's internationals are experienced Germans Okka Rau and Helke Classen, ranked in the world's top 20, Australians Tasmin Barnett and Bechhara Palmer, Brazilians Nina Zgoda and Fernanda Costa, Americans Paige Davis and Jenn Synder and Britons Helen Brown and Rachel Turner.

NZ beach volleyball tour schedule

January 3-4 - Christchurch Challenge, Sumner Beach
January 10-11 - Wellington Open, Oriental Parade
January 14-15 - Ohope Challenge, Maraetotara Reserve
January 17-18 - Mt Maunganui Open, Main Beach
January 23-25 - NZ Open, ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland.


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