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Heat goes on in race for Final Round

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 5, 2005 – The script couldn't be better. With three games still to play in the final weekend of the Preliminary Round this weekend, calculators will be out in force as all 11 teams in the 2005 World Grand Prix have the chance to join hosts Japan in the Final Round as the pressure goes on for teams striving to finish in the top six of the Preliminary Round.

The final round, the grand finale of the premier women’s annual tournament, will feature Japan plus the top five ranked teams after the Preliminary Round and with Japan currently in fourth place, the race is effectively on for all the other teams to finish in the top six.

China and Cuba, Olympic gold and bronze medal winners respectively, are the only two unbeaten sides after six matches and need only one more victory to seal their spot in the next phase.

World number one China will play the Dominican Republic, who have yet to win a match, on Friday, followed by Germany and Italy in Hong Kong. Last year's silver medallists Italy, who currently sit in sixth place, will be looking for at least two wins from three matches to give them every chance of reaching the finals themselves. For Germany (1-5) and the Dominican Republic, they need three wins and hope other results go their way.

In Taipei, defending champions Brazil (5-1) feature in another top draw fixture when they take on Cuba on Sunday. Brazil lost to China last weekend but will hoping for better against a Cuban side who are lighting up the courts where ever they go. Both will be hoping it still will be a top of the table clash as the rest of their group are no easy beats. The Netherlands have made a remarkable return to the World Grand Prix by winning four of their six matches and look on track to repeat their finals appearance of 2003. After losing to Brazil 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14) in Week One, Korea shot up the rankings last week with their first two victories of the tournament in front of their home crowd.

In Bangkok, Saturday will see a key rematch between USA and Japan after the world number three surprised their Asian opponents 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 29-27) in Week Two. Another similar result and victories over winless Thailand and Poland will secure USA, who are currently in seventh with a 3-3 win-loss record, a final round spot. Despite automatically qualifying for the next phase, Japan will be looking to continue their scorching form, which has seen them win four out of six matches to date, including a 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-17) win over Poland in Week One. The Europeans, who stand at 2-4, need nothing less than two victories to give them any hope of reaching the final round for the first time in their history.

Current standings after six matches: 1) China 2) Cuba 3) Brazil 4) Japan 5) Netherlands 6) Italy 7) USA 8) Korea 9) Poland 10) Germany 11) Dominican Republic 12) Thailand