American duo Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross take on rank outsiders Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland in the Olympics beach volleyball tournament on Thursday and it looks like being a one-sided match.
Walsh-Jennings and Ross have dominated Pool C so far with easy wins over Australia and China and should have little trouble seeing off the Swiss threat. To give you an idea of the mismatch, the USA ladies are favorite betting picks to win the gold at +125 with Bovada, while the Swiss team has the longest betting odds of anyone at +15,000 with Bovada.
Forrer and Verge-Depre are a decent team, ranked eighth in the world and 12th seeds for this tournament. They lost their first game 2-1 to China's Fan Wang and Yuan Yue but then beat Australia's Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar 2-1. They really need to beat the Americans in the third and final preliminary match if they are to progress to make it through to the last 16 when it becomes a knockout tournament, but that looks like a mammoth task.
Walsh Jennings looks back to her best less than a year after undergoing major shoulder surgery. She is one-half of the greatest beach volleyball team of all time, having won gold at consecutive Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with Misty May-Treanor. May-Treanor retired at the age of 35 after taking gold in London, but Walsh Jennings, now 37, is still going and is looking good to make it four gold medals on the bounce in Rio. Her teammate Ross was one-half of the silver medal winning team with Jen Kessy in London after they lost to their fellow Americans Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor 21-16, 21-16 in the final.
Walsh Jennings and Ross are ranked third in the world by the FIVB and are third seeds for the tournament, but that is mainly down to the fact that they have not played enough volleyball due to Walsh Jennings' injury. She dislocated her shoulder twice in the 2015 season and took four months off to recover, but she is now a force to be reckoned with once more. Had they played more they would probably top the rankings. That lack of playing time may hamper their chances, but they are justifiably favorites to win another gold for the USA and either way they should beat Forrer and Verge-Depre with ease.
The Swiss duo lost 22-24, 21-18, 12-15 to the Chinese, while Walsh Jennings and Ross beat that same Chinese team 21-16, 21-9 without much difficulty. Motivation might be a problem for the Americans as they have already qualified for the next round, but they will want to keep the momentum going before the knockout stage and that is unlikely to be hurt them too much and they will almost certainly beat the Swiss in straight sets.
They look a great bet to win the tournament overall. Their closest rivals are likely to be second favorites and tournament top seeds Larissa França and Talita Antunes, who have got off to a flying start in Pool A and are +200 with Bovada to win gold. Third favorites Laura Ludwig und Kira Walkenhorst of Germany are +400 with Bovada to win it, and despite being fourth seeds they have moved up to number one in the FIVB rankings after performing very well since the seeding for the Olympics tournament was announced. These three teams are head and shoulders above the rest at present and the winner is highly likely to come from this elite group, while they should all scoop a medal of some sort, but given their vast experience and formidable form Walsh Jennings and Ross currently look a great bet for the gold.