Tokyo, Japan, August 21, 2009: Russia recovered from losing the first set to beat China 3-1 in the first match on the third day of the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday afternoon.
The world champions beat China 27-29, 25-16, 25-19, 25-23 to improve their win-loss record to 2-1. China dropped to 0-3 with two games to play.
China made a slow start, calling a TO down 6-2 and trailing 8-5 at the first TTO. Despite some good work at the net by Xue Ming, Russia dominated the early stages through the spiking of Tatiana Kosheleva.
Russia remained ahead at the second TTO, but only by one, 16-15, when China improved their ground defence and their attack began to function through Wang Yimei and Li Juan. In contrast, the Russian attack lost its momentum due to some wayward setting which gave little opportunity to the big hitters out wide.
Russia called a TO on falling behind 19-17, their defence looking slow against the more dynamic Chinese hitting, notably Wang and the sprightly Yin Na.
China’s defence was much better organised, and Li soared impressively for 23-21, Russia TO. In a frantic conclusion to the opening frame, Russia missed one set point before China clinched it 29-27 on their fifth set point when Wang hammered home a loose ball at the net – her seventh point of the set.
Ekaterina Gamova had been restricted to only two points in the first set, including one block, but she came to life in the second set. Supported by the power play of Anna Makarova and the flying defence of libero Ekaterina Kabeshova, Russia led 8-5 at the first TTO.
As China tried to catch up with the nimble spiking of Ma Yunwen around the net, Russia responded with some terrific blocking by Gamova and Kosheleva and held a seven-point cushion at the second TTO, 16-9.
Although China pulled to within four points, Kosheleva hit the accelerator and spiked and served for consecutive points to 19-13; China TO. China’s challenge wilted, and Russia took the second set easily 25-16, 1-1.
The Chinese block improved in the third set, but they still had no answer to Kosheleva, who produced a flow of fluid spikes from the right side to lead Russia to 8-6 at the first TTO.
China called timeouts down 11-8 and 14-10 and changed setter along the way, Shen Jingsi replacing captain Wei Qiuyue, but the gap was still three at the second TTO, 16-13.
China could not find any momentum in their attack, and it was not only down to the Russian blocking but also their lack of accuracy in passing and occasionally wild spiking. Russia closed out the third set 25-19 to move ahead 2-1.
Russia began the fourth set at a high tempo, leading 8-4 at the first TTO. Wang, who had scored a team-high 18 points after three sets, was toiling under the strain of leading China’s attack with her bludgeoning spikes, and was given a much-needed rest.
Chu Jinling took up the attack and brought China to within three points, but the blocking of Maria Borodakova and consistency of Kosheleva kept Russia in control, 16-11 at the second TTO.
China’s centre players, Xue and Ma, kept the Russian defence busy, and when Li beat the block on the left to close the gap to 18-15, Russia called a TO. Although China pulled back to 19-19, two quick Russian points sent them into a TO.
On their second match point, Kosheleva finished it 25-23.