Andria, Italy, August 3, 2003 - China pulled off the sensation of the 2003 World Grand Prix on Sunday night here in southern Italy when they snatched a 3-0 victory from titleholders and favorites Russia with a stunning display of skill, strength and deception that thrilled the crowd and produced volleyball at its best.
From the opening minutes it was clear that China were not phased by their opponent and they looked set to make Russia's defense of their title as difficult as possible.
Chinese setter Feng Kun was swift and accurate and distributed shots well to Zhao Ruirui, Liu Yunan and Yang Hao and even with the formidable Russians on the other side they were two points ahead at 18-16 when Yang aced for a three point lead. China was 23-19 and in reach of the first set. A deceptive float shot gave them set point but Ekaterina Gamova defended and Evgguenia Artamonova narrowed before Yang landed a spike that gave China 25-22 and the lead.
A serious Chinese wall and a peppering of deception shut out the Russians for 6-1 in the second and they were still in front at 16-12. The Russians looked rattled at 20-16 and the Chinese were having fun. Anastasia Belikova pulled Russia back a point with a one handed flick, a block failure by China and a big hit by Artamonova and Russia equalized. It took China until 28-26 to seal the second set but they did it with style.
China allowed Russia a small advantage in the third but caught them at 8-all but the Russians took hold of the set for a five-point lead. China leveled at 18-all and then hit the front to go on and take the set 25-21, the match and the title.