Defending Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and her new partner April Ross kept up their momentum Monday night, winning their second beach volleyball match in a row.
China's Fan Wang and Yuan Yue were no match for the Americans, losing in two sets, 21-16, 21-9.
Walsh Jennings and Ross have not quite clinched a spot in the knockout stage of the tournament, but they have guaranteed that they won't be eliminated in pool play. Walsh Jennings and former partner Misty May-Treanor never lost a set in winning gold in Athens and Beijing. They lost only one set in London, where they beat Ross and Jennifer Kessy in the championship.
The duo played in the featured midnight timeslot for the second straight match. Their prior match, a victory over Australia, began at 12:34 a.m. Sunday morning.
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
The times are set to draw maximum viewership in the United States, but the many empty seats for the late games had look bad on TV.
They picked up the production value at the Copacabana beach volleyball venue for Monday's match. In addition to the usual rock and samba music that has been playing during the breaks since the Rio Games began on Saturday, organizers gave Walsh Jennings and her partner April Ross a professional wrestling-style introduction as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning.
With about 10 minutes before the start of the game against China, the stadium lights were darkened, replaced by searchlights that scanned the sand and the flashlights on fans' mobile phones. When the lights came on, the crowd broke into a chant of "U-S-A!"
Beach volleyball has been one of the top tickets at the Olympics, but the venue has been sprinkled liberally with empty seats.
Beyond the late matches, fans are apparently coming to see their favorite team and then leaving. Never was that more clear than Monday, following Brazil's three-set loss to Austria. With fans streaming out of the 12,000-seat venue, the public address announcer invited those staying behind to move down to better seats.