ST. PETERSBURG — As a three-time Olympic gold medal winner and beach volleyball's all-time leader for domestic and international wins combined, Kerri Walsh Jennings already holds nearly every accolade in the sport.
Sunday, at the 2014 AVP St. Petersburg Open final in front of an estimated 1,500 spectators at Spa Beach Park, Walsh Jennings added one more to her resume.
Teaming with new partner April Ross, the AVP Tour's 2013 most valuable player, Walsh Jennings broke a tie with former longtime partner Misty May-Treanor for most Tour victories, defeating fourth-seeded Brooke Sweat and Lauren Fendrick 19-21, 21-15, 15-11 to earn her 67th overall AVP win.
"Every single win of my 67 wins have come alongside an amazing partner, a vast, vast majority of those with Misty May-Treanor, who I love and adore and I'm so grateful for her, and then the new round is going to go with April," said Walsh Jennings, who split a $15,000 prize with Ross for Sunday's win. "…I feel really good to be in a group of people who have won so much. That's my job, that's what I want to do. I'm addicted to it."
Sweat, a Fort Myers native and Florida Gulf Coast alum, and Fendrick led virtually wire-to-wire in Game 1 and led 10-8 in Game 2 after Sweat hit a serve off the tape, a kill and another ace. But after closing to within a point, Ross, the Tour's reigning server of the year, hit three straight aces, leading Sweat and Fendrick to call timeout. Walsh Jennings served an ace to close Game 2.
"(Our coach) kept wanting us to serve tougher, move them more, and so we started going for our serves a little more," Ross said. "That's the first time I went for my jump serve all tournament. I'm glad I did."
Up 14-11 in Game 3, Ross served her fifth ace to close out the victory for the second-seeded pair, which beat top seeds Summer Ross and Emily Day 21-15, 21-13 in the semifinals.
For the men, John Mayer and Brad Keenan rebounded from a 21-15, 21-10 loss on the tournament's second day to make the final through the contender's bracket. Sunday they upset top-seeded and defending champions Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson 16-21, 21-19, 18-16.
Mayer and Keenan had four match points in the final game before Mayer finished it with an ace that Gibb let go.
"I knew I wanted to hit (the serve) really hard," Mayer said. "I told myself, 'This is a good toss, go for it.' … On that side, the wind was nice. I was like 'If it's there, I've got to be aggressive. If it's not, I've got to keep it in.' But, it was there."
Keenan, partnered with Mayer for two consecutive seasons, earned his first Tour victory. It was Mayer's second. The pair earned $15,000.
"We had a tough year last year," Mayer said. "We made one semifinal, and we didn't play great the whole year. This offseason, we were kind of having a tough go to start, and I was like, 'Should I still be out here? Is it time to move on?' … We (both) decided to just go for it for the next month or two.
"So, coming into this tournament, I felt like we were way better than we were last year."
Keenan and April Ross, who are married, become the third couple to win an AVP tournament on the same weekend.