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One down, 11 to go for Fendrick and Hughes

09.02.2020 - Vienna, Austria

The recently-partnered Americans won their first tournament together as they attempt an audacious last-minute Olympic run

Even the most challenging journeys need to start from somewhere and Lauren Fendrick and Sara Hughes couldn’t have picked a better spot to initiate their own. Playing together for the first time, the Americans took the gold medal of the two-star World Tour event in Siem Reap, Cambodia, this weekend.

The 37-year-old Fendrick, a Rio 2016 Olympian, and the 24-year-old Hughes recovered from a setback in their first match in the Asian country to go all the way to the top of the podium after their 21-13, 21-16 victory in the All-American final against Kelly Reeves and Terese Cannon.

The triumph is the first step of the new team’s ambitious plan of qualifying to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as they secure their first 400 points together. With only four more months counting to the qualification period, the Americans will need to be nearly perfect and achieve eleven more similar finishes to overcome their compatriots who have been compiling points since the end of 2018.

Hughes started an Olympic run with Summer Ross in 2018 but a series of severe back injuries endured by the blocker forced the duo to split. The defender then turned to Fendrick, who’s just returning to the sand after 14 months of inactivity due to the birth of her first daughter, Willa.

Fendrick first thought about returning to the sport for last year’s World Championships, but had to delay her plans. Then she was entered to play at the World Tour Finals in Rome but hat to skip it too.

Before winning the gold in Cambodia, Hughes and her had played together just once before, at the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major, when they finished ninth.

“It's been maybe 13, 14 months since I last played in a tournament,” she reflected after the final in Siem Reap. “So it's been a lot of jitters and things to work through being back at it, but it's so fun to be here on the same side of Sara. I'm excited for what's next for us.”

The bronze medal of the Cambodian tournament went to the Japanese duo of Yurika Sakaguchi and Chiyo Suzuki, who downed Denmark’s Sofia Bisgaard and Cecilie Olsen in straight sets (21-18, 21-18) to finish third.

The World Tour continues in ten days with a men-only two-star tournament in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from February 20-23.