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Costa Mesa, CA – With just under a month until the opening Grand Slam tournament of 2013 kicks off in Shanghai, China, pundits, journalists, and fans are already heavily tipping American women’s duo Jennifer Kessy and April Ross as favorites to bring home the gold.

The former USC players won the silver medal in last summer’s London Olympics, losing the final to fellow Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, 16-21, 16-21. Since then Kessy and Ross, who won the world championship in 2009, have become among the first players to sign on for the 2013 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. Recently the duo returned to their alma mater to play an exhibition match at the dedication of the beach volleyball sand courts at USC’s new Merle Norman Stadium.

To take gold at the Shanghai event the former world champions will need to overcome a number of talented upcoming sides looking to make their names on the international beach volleyball circuit; including Italians Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti, German duo Ilka Semmler and Katrin Holtwick, and 2011 Shanghai gold medalists Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Kelzer of the Netherlands.

On the men’s side, Phil Dalhausser and his new partner Sean Rosenthal will be looking to capture their first bit of hardware together. Dalhausser took gold at the Shanghai event in 2011 and 2012 with his former partner Todd Rogers. In both instances, “The Thin Beast” and “The Professor” beat out Rosenthal and his former partner Jake Gibb in the finals.

The Shanghai Grand Slam began as an Open for women in 2004 and for men in 2005. It was upgraded to Grand Slam last year when Chinese women’s duo Chen Xue and Xi Zhang beat out Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes to win the gold medal.

The 2013 Shanghai Grand Slam gets underway April 30 and runs until May 5.

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