Six-time world champion Russia started its 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix campaign with a stylish straight-set victory over South Korea in Ningbo, China on Friday.
The Russian team won the Pool C match by a scoreline of 25-23, 25-23 and 25-15 in just one hour and 10 minutes.
South Korea's Kim Yeon-Koung scored a game-high 19 points but it was not enough to prevent her team from losing at the hands of Russia. Tatiana Kosheleva and Anna Makarova paced the Russian side with 16 points apiece.
Both teams looked sluggish and error-prone at the beginning of the first set, reaching the first TTO with Korea 8-6 in front. A few good serves and spikes then allowed the Russians to level the score at 14-14 and take a 16-15 lead into the second TTO. Russian coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin brought on star spiker Ekaterina Gamova for Marina Sheshenina, but it was Makarova who provided much of the ammunition for Russia as they went ahead 20-18. South Korea coach Lee Sung-hee then called timeout twice and the Korean girls pulled to within one point at 24-23. Russia stayed cool and won the first set on a solo block effort by Elena Murtazaeva.
Russia rushed out to a 5-2 lead in the second set and led 8-5 at the first TTO. After the break, Bae Yoo-na produced a series of great serves as South Korea won six points in a row to snatch the lead (11-8). Kuzyutkin called a timeout, which seemed to work as his girls cut the deficit to one point (11-10), but at the second TTO South Korea was still ahead 16-14. The teams traded points until the score was locked at 23-23 and Russia then scored two points to close the set.
South Korea was the first to click into gear, establishing a 4-2 lead in the third set, but aided by two service aces from Olga Fateeva, Russia surged ahead 8-4 by the first TTO. The hard-hitting Russians then extended their lead to seven points at the second TTO (16-9). Leading at 24-15, Russia clinched the set and overall victory on a combined blocking effort by Maria Zhadan and Elena Murtazaeva.