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AUSTRALIA’S LAIRD AND DEL SOLAR INTO MAIN DRAW OF RIO GRAND SLAM

Australian beach volleyballers Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have made the strongest start possible to their Rio Grand Slam campaign, winning both their qualifying matches comfortably to progress to the main draw.

The current World U23 champions cruised past Turkey’s Merve Nezir and Esra Betul Cetin 21-14, 21-16, before comfortably seeing off Kazakhstan’s Tatyana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova 21-18, 21-11.

Laird and del Solar will now join Australia’s top ranked pair of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy in the main draw on Copacabana Beach, the venue for this year’s Rio Olympic beach volleyball competition.

While Bawden and Clancy are almost certain to qualify for the Olympics, based on current world rankings, Laird and Artacho del Solar will need to win the Asian Continental Olympic qualifiers, to be held in Australia in June.

Laird and del Solar will return to Manly Beach later this month to lead the Australian charge at the Asian Beach Volleyball Championships, the final event of the 10-day Manly Volleyfest.