Tokyo, Japan, August 23, 2009: Olympic champions Brazil won their eighth FIVB World Grand Prix title with a perfect 5-0 record by beating Japan 3-1 in the last match of the Final Round at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday evening.
In front of 10,000 spectators for the 15th and final match of the five-day, six-team round-robin, Brazil won 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 25-19 to retain their Grand Prix crown in style.
Japan made them work hard for the Final Round sweep, however, even though they ended with a 1-4 record.
Japan started the match in dazzling style, with two service aces for Maiko Kano and two jump-serve aces for Megumi Kurihara. With Kurihara also dangerous out wide in open play, Japan led 8-5 at the first TTO.
Brazil replaced Natalia with Sassa when they fell behind 12-8, and after that countered Japan’s confident attack with some excellent blocking from Mari and Sheilla. Kurihara was enjoying the occasion, though, and her third ace – this time off the off the net cord -- took Japan into the second TTO ahead 16-12.
Brazil’s block, with Mari outstanding, enabled them to catch up at 19-19, and Thaisa began cranking out some big winners down the middle. With Mari and Sheilla as productive as ever, Brazil took the first set 25-21.
Japan started the second set well, too, with Saori Kimura having more of an influence on the game and Kano also scoring out wide left for 8-5 Japan at the first TTO.
When Sassa brought Brazil level 8-8 and Kurihara and Kimura both made unforced errors on attack, Japan called a TO down 10-8. Two of Japan’s lesser lights, Masami Taniguchi and Kaori Inoue, led the revival, and Kimura’s slicing winner took Japan into the second TTO ahead 16-15.
The blocking and spiking of Sheilla kept Brazil in touch, but Taniguchi’s ball control in the back court and clean hitting, together with Kimura’s unpredictable spiking angles, proved decisive down the stretch as the home team won the second set 27-25 on their fourth set point.
Brazil’s attack and serve reception faltered at the start of the third set, and Japan took advantage to lead 8-5 at the first TTO with service aces for Kimura and Taniguchi and spikes for middle blockers Inoue and Shoji.
The Brazilian block homed in on Taniguchi, with Thaisa and Dani Lins both notching block points against her, and Japan took a TO down 14-12. Sheilla’s ace gave Brazil a four-point cushion at the second TTO, 16-12.
Even though Kimura scored the point of the match to date, spiking from the left after a dizzying rally that had spectators on the edge of their seats, Japan could not stop Brazil from taking the third set 25-19 with a lusty blow from Natalia.
The Brazilians were on fire at the start of the fourth set, making it difficult for Japan to get the ball over the net at a threatening height. Brazil led 6-0 and 8-2 at the first TTO, and Sassa continued to produce important points as Japan rallied to close the gap to one point.
When Sheilla blocked Kurihara for 14-11, Brazil appeared to have fended off Japan’s fightback and prepared themselves for the kill at 16-11 at the second TTO.
They duly finished the match 25-19 with a Sassa screamer and the Grand Prix with another gold medal.