Tokyo, Japan, August 19, 2009: Germany surprised Japan 3-1 in the third match of the first day of the World Grand Prix Final Round at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
In front of 10,000 spectators, the Germans played a fantastic match to win 25-21, 16-25, 25-17, 25-22 and begin their campaign in style.
Much was expected of Japan, but they were out-thought and out-fought by a fast and lively German team which fully deserved its victory.
Germany thrived in the white-hot atmosphere and sent Japan into a TO on losing the first four points of the match. Germany led 5-0 before Japan got on the board, and Maren Brinker scored smoothly from the left for 7-1.
Germany led 8-2 at the first TTO, and Corina Ssuschke rejected a Megumi Kurihara tip-over to extend that lead after the break. The Germans were flying and peppering the Japanese court with their aggressive and adventurous spiking, sending Japan spinning into their second TO at 11-3.
Margareta Kozuch smashed through Japan’s block with a back-court attack to keep Germany moving forward, and Christiane Furst broke through on the right for 14-7.
Japan were finally beginning to show signs of life, and when Saori Kimura’s floating serve dropped in to close the gap to 15-10, Germany called a TO still holding a five-point advantage.
Maiko Kano capitalised on Yoshie Takeshita’s flying dig and Kurihara displayed perfect placement to reduce Germany’s lead to 15-13.
Germany held a three-point advantage at the second TTO, 16-13, but the Japanese were right back in it thanks to the tenacious defence of setter Takeshita and the improved shot-making of the spikers around her.
Captain Erika Araki pummeled a trademark winner at the net on the resumption, only for Brinker to reply with a glorious strike from the left and restore her team’s three-point cushion.
A Kaori Inoue block on Kozuch provided Japan with temporary respite, but Germany were still looking good for the first set at 19-16. A sparkling spike from Inoue at the net closed the gap again, and when a German attack broke down there was only one point in it.
Setter Kathleen Weiss punched one over to catch out the Japan defence, and a serve error handed Germany a crucial lead at 23-20.
Germany had four set points at 24-20, and Kozuch closed it 25-21, 1-0 Germany.
Furst led Germany’s confident start to the second set, and Kozuch blocked Kurihara in emphatic style to underline Germany’s superiority at this point.
Ssuschke launched a furious assault on the Japan block, scoring impressively on the right, only for a Takeshita floater to bounce in for a service ace.
The output of attack points began to increase for Japan as the home side fought back, but the Germans were still producing some clean winners from a battery of hitters. When a Heike Beier serve eluded Kimura for a soft ace, Japan called a TO trailing 13-11.
Araki pounded Japan into a one-point lead, 16-15, at the second TTO, accepting a short overhead set from Takeshita.
A Kimura block and cross-court Araki spike brought the second set closer, and Kano scored from the right for 20-16, at which point Germany took a TO.
Kimura took a hard German spike full in the face as she went up for the block and looked dazed for a while, but still ended the same rally with a well-placed shot into space.
Japan’s brilliant defence was causing Germany to rush their shots, and Beier was wide up the left, before blasting straight into Kano’s block. Japan were in control and closed the set 25-16 with a crashing Araki block, 1-1.
Kimura began the third set with two swirling aces, but Kozuch also displayed her placement prowess by pushing a shot up the left for 4-3.
Brinker blocked Kano and then spiked sharply to move Germany ahead 7-5, and when an attempted block on Ssuschke dropped out, the visitors led 8-6 at the first TTO.
A stinging attack by Kozuch up the right kept Japan on their toes, and Furst battered home a loose ball at the net for 11-9. Kano and Beier exchanged fluid winners as the set progressed, but when Kozuch made it 13-10, Japan called a TO.
Furst maintained Germany’s momentum to 15-11, and a brilliant Beier dig helped her team into the second TTO with a five-point cushion at 16-11.
An Inoue spike and Kurihara ace shaved the lead by two and sent Germany into a TO still ahead 16-13, but when Japan’s attack misfired the comeback faltered; now the home team went off for a TO down 19-14.
A back-court attack from Kozuch and Furst block on Araki moved Germany six clear, and then Furst blocked Kurihara to record a body blow for Japan, now in big trouble at 22-16. A Weiss ace and Furst smash took Germany to seven set points at 24-17. Kimura was long on Japan’s next attack and the third set was all over, 25-17, 2-1 Germany.
Japan were struggling for motivation at the start of the fourth set against a fast and fit German team, and it needed some Kurihara magic to get them moving. Furst blazed through a crumbling Japanese block for 4-2 and Kozuch displayed her power and accuracy shortly after.
It all looked too easy when Brinker did the same on the left for 7-4, and Ssuschke pounded Germany into a three-point lead at the first TTO, 8-5.
The Germans were proving too quick in thought and deed, even for Japan, and more than matched their Asian hosts with their agile digging and support play.
Japan constantly varied their attack in an attempt to unsettle the well-drilled German defence, but the Germans did not back down and Brinker smashed a lovely winner to end a tumbling rally.
Maiko Sakashita injected fresh life into a toiling Japan team and dragged them level 13-13, and brilliant defence and passing from Takeshita and Yuko Sano led to Kimura firing Japan into the lead, 16-15, at the second TTO.
Furst drove her team forward, though, with some incisive play at the net. Backed up by some outstanding back-court defence, Germany forced Japan into mistakes and the home team retreated into a TO down 21-18.
Brinker took Germany closer to victory at 22-19, before Germany received a yellow card for protesting a decision that first went in their favour, only to be awarded to Japan.
Brinker made it 23-21, just two points from victory, and match point came at 24-22 on a serve error. Ssuschke blocked to end it 25-22, 3-1 Germany. It was the most important of Germany’s 13 block points.