Tokyo, Japan, August 19, 2009: Brazil saved two match points in the tiebreak before beating Russia 3-2 in the second match at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon.
The Olympic champions won an epic encounter against the world champions 25-20, 22-25, 25-17, 24-26, 16-14 to stay on course for an eighth Grand Prix crown.
Brazil made a blistering start and their pace was too much for Russia in the early stages, leading 3-0, 6-3 and 8-5 at the first TTO.
The Russian block began to go to work, but there was no stopping the fluid back-court attacks of Sheilla Castro.
Castro then took Brazil into the second TTO with a six-point lead at 16-10 with a gentle ace that sailed through the Russian court. She resumed with another well-placed floating ace, before Tatiana Kosheleva gave Russia some respite with a powerful spike on the left.
Brazil had plenty of points to play with at the end of the first set before Natalia Pereira finished it 25-20 with a lusty blow from the left across court. Castro scored nine points in the first set alone, including seven spikes.
In the second set, Russia managed to stay on the pace, restricting Brazil to a one-point lead at 8-7 at the first TTO.
On the restart, Natalya Safronova made her presence felt on the Russian left, before setter Maria Zhadan flicked one into space to give Russia further hope.
A Castro block on Safronova kept Russia playing catch-up, before Kosheleva finished off a counter-attack after Pereira had been stopped on the left. The Russian block was starting to get on top, and Brazil called a TO when falling behind 14-12.
Gamova took Russia into the second TTO with a two-point lead, 16-14, and at 17-14 Welissa “Sassa” Gonzaga replaced Pereira, who was struggling against the blocking.
Gamova tipped over a loose ball for 19-16, at which point Brazil headed into their second TO having lost their grip on the game. Safronova moved her team ahead 21-18, but when Brazil’s block reduced the lead to 21-20, Russia needed a TO.
Olga Fateeva blocked Castro for 23-20 and the same player spiked for three set points at 24-21. Kosheleva finished it 25-22 for 1-1.
Castro greeted Safronova with a stunning block early in the third set, and Thaisa Menezes pounded one down the middle to increase Brazil’s tempo. Pereira was back now and added to her tally, as did Marianne Steinbrecher with a couple of well-crafted winners for 8-4 at the first TTO.
The Brazilians were finding their momentum again, and when Fabiana Claudino blocked Safronova for 11-6, Russia called a TO.
Some brilliant Russian defence caused Castro to over-stretch and fire wide on one point, but she quickly adjusted her sights to spike deep to the base line for 12-9. With errors on serve reception and attack, Russia trailed 16-10 at the second TTO.
A Dani Lins dig on Gamova sparked a counter-attack for another Brazilian point when Gamova misread the flight of the ball, and Russia called a TO in big trouble at 18-10.
Thaisa led Brazil down the stretch with some commanding points at the net, but Gamova’s block on Fabiana held up their advance. Mari brought up seven set points at 24-17, finishing off a scrappy rally with a flowing spike from the right, and Fabiana’s block on Fateeva ended it 25-17 for 2-1.
Brazil started the fourth set looking to take command early, and their blocking eased them ahead 4-0, with Fabiana at the centre of everything. Castro turned up the heat, but was then on the end of a fine block by Anna Makarova.
Makarova’s dipping ace brought Russia to within a point at 6-5, but Castro’s floating ace made it 8-5 for Brazil at the first TTO.
Maria Borodakova and Kosheleva kept Russia in the hunt, and Gamova fired a big winner on the left to close the gap to one point, 10-9.
Russia had found a new lease of life, and a block on Mari nudged them ahead 12-11. When Sheilla fired wide up the left to leave Russia in front 13-11, Brazil called a TO.
Russia led by three at the second TTO on a wild Thaisa attack, and Gamova showed her class again on the restart with a sumptuous spike from a standing start on the left. When Natalia was wide up the left trying to force the pace, Brazil were in all sorts of problems down 19-14 and in need of a TO.
With a lot of support from the stands, Brazil battled back to close the gap to two points, 22-20, and send Russia into a TO. Natalia attacked from the back court and Fabiana blocked Gamova for 22-22 in an amazing comeback.
When she repeated the block for 23-22, victory was in sight, only for Makarova to pull Russia level. Russia missed a set point at 24-23, but Fateeva brought up their second at 25-24. Makarova’s block on Sheilla clinched it 26-24 for 2-2. Fabiana now had seven block points for Brazil, who had also scored nine points on serve.
In the tiebreak, Natalia moved Brazil ahead 3-1 with a terrific drive from the left, but Sedova’s block on Sheilla brought Russia level.
Poor serve reception on a Gamova floater put Russia ahead 6-4, and the outstanding Marakova spiked for 7-5. Gamova soared imperiously for 8-6 at the turnaround.
Sheilla won a net joust to pull Brazil level 8-8, and Mari’s athletic winner moved Brazil ahead 9-8 and sent Russia into a TO.
Russia moved ahead 12-10 on excellent blocking and Gamova pounced for 13-11. Makarova brought up two match points at 14-12, but Brazil saved them both thanks to some poor Russian serve reception.
Thaisa blocked for 15-14, match point Brazil, and Brazil won it on another Thaisa block 16-14, 3-2.