Tokyo, Japan, August 19, 2009: The Netherlands beat China 3-2 in the first match of the World Grand Prix Final Round at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon.
Inspired by captain Manon Flier, the 2007 champions won 18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 24-26, 15-13 on their second match point.
China reached the first TTO with a one-point lead, 8-7, after some good work at the net by Xue Ming on attack and block. The Dutch were struggling with their serve reception, and Wang Yimei scored an ace with a powerful jump-serve.
When Caroline Wensink fired wide to leave the Dutch trailing 11-7, Avital Selinger called his first TO. The Chinese block remained strong, but there was nothing they could do to stop Manon Flier breaking through with a smooth smash from the right – one of seven points in the first set for the captain.
The Dutch could not find their rhythm, though, and trailed 16-9 at the second TTO. Flier tried to lift her team, but when they fell behind 19-11 to a quicker and more dynamic China, the Dutch called their second TO.
Li Juan moved China further ahead with a cross-court spike from the right, but some good work on the left by Chaine Staelens closed the gap to 21-15 and forced a China TO.
Xue’s blocking took China to set point at 24-15, and they clinched it 25-18 on a serve error.
China made a sluggish start to the second frame, and Debby Stam capitalised with a flowing winner down the left side. Flier followed from a deep position on the right, and the Dutch were hitting their stride at 8-4.
Ingrid Visser showed persistence at the net to keep the Dutch moving, and Flier’s back-court attacks brought a steady supply of points. Visser battered the Dutch into the second TTO with a three-point cushion at 16-13, but when China pulled level 16-16 on points from Ma Yunwen and Yin Na, the Netherlands called a TO.
Ma was becoming increasingly influential at the net, but Wang was wild and China called a TO on losing the lead again, 20-19.
From 22-22, southpaw Maret Grothues and a Kim Staelens ace moved the Netherlands to two set points, China TO, and poor serve reception technique ended it 25-22, 1-1.
A stunning Xue block on Flier was the highlight of the early stages of the third frame, but Flier got her revenge when Wang could not control her sizzling spike shortly after.
Great defence by Kim Staelens enabled Chaine Staelens to take the Dutch into the first TTO with a one-point lead, but a thundering blow by Wang and Ma block turned it round for China.
A rare Flier attack error brought a Dutch TO trailing 12-9, and poor Dutch serving added to their problems. A Kim Staelens block on Li closed the gap to 15-14, and the setter than spiked down the middle for 15-15. Kim was on a roll, and a tricky piece of work at the net kept the Dutch on the pace.
China called a TO down 18-16 after another point from the left-hander Grothues, and Chaine Staelens continued to swing away on the left for 21-18.
Visser finished off a counter-attack by thrashing another unstoppable winner at the net, and four set points arrived at 24-20 on a serve error. Selinger called a TO on seeing the first two of them slip away, and a wild serve ended it 25-22, 2-1 to the Netherlands.
Captain Flier gave the Dutch a solid start to the fourth set with some well-placed serves, supported by a good block, but Chu Jinling led the Chinese reply with her fiery jump-serves which unsettled the orange defence.
Visser was stopped in her tracks by a crashing Li block as China tried to step up the pace, and China led 8-6 at the first TTO.
Zhao Yanni kept the pressure on the Dutch defence with some powerful attacks, but Francien Huurman quickly worked her out and pulled off a block point to add to her tally.
When Grothues sliced through the Chinese defence again, the Netherlands led 16-15 at the second TTO. China called a TO trailing 18-16, but fell further behind when Huurman blazed one down the middle for 20-17. But the Chinese were far from out of this one.
A gentle Ma serve dropped between the Dutch defence, and Xue’s superb block on Flier pulled China level 20-20 and brought a Dutch TO.
China missed a set point at 24-23, but won the fourth set on their second attempt 26-24 when Chaine Staelens fired long, 2-2.
In the tiebreak, Grothues moved the Netherlands ahead 4-3 and Huurman’s block for 5-3 forced China into a TO. Grothues was proving hard to contain, her crisp southpaw spikes from the left fizzing through the defence at a sharp angle.
China led 8-7 at the turnaround but could not pull away as Huurman blocked Wang.
At 11-11, China made two attack errors and called a TO in trouble down 13-11. Flier brought up two match points at 14-12, and Stam came on to serve. China saved one of them, but Flier won it 15-13.