Osaka, Japan, August 7, 2009: World champions Russia were given a mighty scare by Korea before winning the first match of the Osaka Grand Prix 3-2 on Friday afternoon.
The world champions eventually came home 23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-27, 15-13 on their second match point to halt Korea's feisty challenge.
Russia, who had beaten Korea 3-0 in the first weekend of action, improved their win-loss record to 3-1, while unlucky Korea dropped to 0-4.
Korea capitalised on a slow start from Russia to lead 8-6 at the first TTO, thanks to some good work at the net on attack and block by Yang Hyo-Jin.
The Russians made errors on serve reception and in attack, and quickly realised they needed to stem the flow of points from the athletic Kim Yeon-Koung.
The Korean defence worked overtime to deny Maria Borodakova on the right wing, and the Asians' lead grew to 14-9 on more attacking mistakes, sending Russia into the first TO of the match.
On the restart, Ekaterina Gamova was wide again from the left, and Kim took Korea into the second TTO with a healthy cushion of six points at 16-10.
The Korean defence was outstanding, not just in digging but also on block, and Russia made two changes when down 19-12, taking out Gamova and setter Maria Zhadan.
Eight points adrift at 22-14, Russia called their second TO and returned for Tatiana Kosheleva to spike cleanly from the left and spark a revival. With their lead trimmed to five points at 22-17, Korea called their first TO.
A stunning Kosheleva block on Kim showed that the set was far from over, and when Kosheleva spiked to close the gap to 23-21, Korea called their second TO.
Kim brought up two set points at 24-22, and the same player finished it 25-23 with her 10th point of the opening frame to earn Korea the first set.
Kosheleva continued from where she left off with her seven-point first set to give Russia a good start in the second, and Ksenia Naumova added to the tally from the left flank.
The blocking of Kim and crisp spiking at the net from Yang pulled Korea level at 7-7, before Borodakova pushed one over to give her team the most slender of advantages at the first TTO. Borodakova then showed her blocking skills to deny Bae Yoo-Na, and Elena Murtazaeva helped Russia into the second TTO leading 16-11.
Naumova swatted Russia ahead 17-11, sending Korea into the first TO of the second set, and Gamova caught out the Korean defence by pushing one into a big space in the mid-court. In trouble at 20-13, Korea called their second TO to try and turn the tide.
It was a lost cause, though, as the fluidity of the Russian spikes increased and their attack was relentless and wearing down the tiring Koreans.
Kosheleva pounded a mighty winner to bring up seven set points at 24-17, but they missed three before Naumova ended it 25-20 for 1-1.
A brilliant block by Yang on Gamova lifted Korean spirits early in the third set, and Russia took a TO down 6-2 and having lost their momentum.
Kim, having scored 16 points in the first two sets, and Bae made sure Korea enjoyed a four-point advantage at the first TTO, 8-4.
Korea's captain, Kim Se-Young, kept her team moving forward with some clean points at the net, but Naumova used a variety of spiking techniques on the left to close the gap to 11-10 Korea, sending Korea into a TO.
Borodakova began to dominate the net, blocking Kim superbly on one point, and the Russians led 16-13 at the second TTO.
As Russia tried to turn up the heat, Gamova fizzed one past libero Kim Hae-Ran, and Kosheleva smashed another winner from the right for 18-15.
But the Koreans were not finished yet, and their noisy communication lifted their play and enabled them to pull level at 18-18 with a big winner from Kim Min-Ji, sending Russia into a TO. It would be the last point Korea would win in this set, though, as their attack fell to pieces and Naumova led her team home 25-18 for 2-1.
Again the Russians were outplayed and outfought in the early stages of the fourth set, and took a TO when falling behind 5-1.
Oh Hyun-Mi caught the Russians cold with her attacks from the left, helping Korea into the first TTO ahead 8-3.
Kim Min-Ji's spike was too strong for the Russian block as Korea stayed in front, and Yang's smooth stroke from the right made it 10-6.
Russia needed to lift their level quickly to avoid a late-set scramble, and southpaw La Hea-Won added to their problems with another Korean point.
The back-court attacks of the powerful Kim Min-Ji continued to cause problems for Russia, but some attack errors from La and Kim Se-Young allowed Russia to come back to 15-15.
Brilliant digging from Na Hyun-Jung kept Russia under pressure, and Yang restored a two-point cushion at 18-16.
Leading 19-18, top scorer Kim returned for Korea after being given a lengthy rest, and her spike from the left made it 22-20.
She then served an ace for 23-20, sending Russia into a TO with all sorts of problems. Russia could not afford to make any more mistakes, and two stylish winners closed the gap to one point at 23-22 and forced a Korea TO.
Kim Se-Young brought up two set points at 24-22, but bad setting allowed Russia to level 24-24.
Korea missed a third set point before Kim Min-Ji's dig and Kim Yeon-Koung's spike closed the fourth set 27-25 on the Koreans' fourth set point, 2-2.
A Gamova block on Kim Yeon-Koung moved Russia ahead 5-2 in the tiebreak and sent Korea into a TO, but Kim could not be halted permanently and dragged her team back to 5-4.
Naumova, attacking resourcefully on the left, kept Russia in front, and the world champions turned round 8-4 ahead.
Gamova's floating serves caused problems in the Korea defence, and the Asians needed a TO trailing 9-4.
Bae's block on Naumova forced an attack error from the same player on the next point, and Russia took a TO with a one-point lead, 9-8.
Russia finally opened a two-point lead at 12-10, and brilliant defence from Murtazaeva helped them to 13-10.
A block by captain Kim closed the gap to 13-12 and sent Russia into a TO, but Russia had two match points at 14-12 thanks to Borodakova.
Gamova won it on the second of those, 15-13 for 3-2 Russia.