China and Japan still perfect heading into final week
World No. 5 China needed five sets to get past strong-serving Turkey 3-2 (19-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-25, 15-10) on Sunday and record their second perfect World Grand Prix weekend.
China coach Lang Ping was particularly pleased with how her team dealt with the pressure last year's bronze medallists Turkey, ranked seventh in the world, put on them, before admitting there was still room for improvement.
"It is hard to find flaws in Turkey's diversified play," she said. "Their serves and attacks were one of our team's biggest challenges. We needed to adapt to changes in the court, young players need to adjust to ups and downs during competition."
Turkey's 13 points from the service line, including six from captain Neslihan Darnel, was the highest total scored so far in the 2013 World Grand Prix, but China relied on the points-scoring threat of rising 18-year-old star Zhu Ting who was the match's top scorer with 23.
Japan's perfect start was a little easier to maintain, a 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-15) win against home team Poland in Plock on Sunday thanks to strong serving from captain Saori Kimura and the heavy point-scoring of Yukiko Ebata, who added 19 points to the 28 she posted on Saturday against Kazakhstan.
It was Japan's seventh consecutive World Grand Prix victory and equalled their previous record in the tournament set in 1994. They now head back to Japan where they will host pool M in the final preliminary round of matches.
Reigning World Grand Prix champions USA brought Serbia's record six-match competition winning streak to an end with a tough 3-2 (25-14, 22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12) win in Belgrade.
USA coach Karch Kiraly was pleased with the victory and said his team had to "figure out the way to win," while Serbia coach Zoran Terzic chose to question his players' courage and in relation to service errors said that "amateur teams would have done better" in the tie-break.
It completed an unbeaten weekend for the US and moved them back into top-six contention on 14 points after a slow start in Brazil on the opening weekend of competition. Despite defeat, the 3-2 scoreline meant Serbia remained ahead of USA in third place on the table with 16 points, just behind unbeaten teams China and Japan. who have 17 each.
Olympic champions Brazil, who also have 14 points, got over their surprise 3-1 defeat by Bulgaria on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-17) win against pool G hosts Puerto Rico. Brazil have never dropped a set against Puerto Rico in World Grand Prix matches and that stayed the same on Sunday as they won the opening set of a match for the first time in the 2013 competition.
Their Saturday conquerors Bulgaria couldn't build on that victory, losing 3-2 (22-25, 25-18, 23-25, 30-28, 14-16) against the Dominican Republic in the highest-scoring match (226 points) of week two. Despite strong individual performances from Dobriana Rabadzhieva (26 points) and Emiliya Nikolova (25), defeat left them a point outside the top six, tied on 13 alongside Turkey.
Even though they lost their unbeaten competition record to hosts Russia on Friday, Italy finished their weekend in Ekaterinburg with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 29-27) win against Thailand that put them in fourth place overall with 15 points.
Russia completed an unbeaten weekend at home with a 3-1 (25-17, 25-14, 16-25, 25-17) win against Cuba that keeps them in contention with 12 points for a top six place.
After a pair of 3-0 defeats against Serbia and USA, the Netherlands finished their weekend with an impressive 3-0 (25-15, 25-7, 25-6) win against Algeria. Strong serving and an outstanding blocking performance from Robin De Kruijf were key to victory.
Strong serving was also important as Germany claimed a 3-1 (25-14, 25-11, 20-25, 25-19) win against Kazakhstan in Pool H, while the Czech Republic scored their only win of the weekend and second of the tournament with a 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 25-20) victory against Argentina.
The competition now has just one week of preliminary matches remaining for teams to try and finish inside the top six to secure a place in the Finals in Sapporo, Japan, which take place from August 28 to September 1.
LIVE SCOREBOX | WEEK 2
Top Scoring Performances
41 – Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata of Poland v Russia (August 4)
32 – Zhu Ting of China v Netherlands (August 4)
31 – Tatyana Mudritskaya of Kazakhstan v Argentina (August 4)
28 – Yukiko Ebata of Japan v Kazakhstan (August 10)
28 – Bethania De La Cruz of Dominican Republic v Czech Republic (August 4)
27 – Miyu Nagaoka of Japan v Germany (August 9)
26 - Dobriana Rabadzhieva of Bulgaria v Dominican Republic (August 11)
25 - Aneta Havlickova of Czech Republic v Argentina (August 11)
25 - Emiliya Nikolova of Bulgaria v Dominican Republic (August 11)
25 - Kelly Murphy of USA v Serbia (August 11)
25 – Bethania De La Cruz of Dominican Republic v Brazil (August 9)
25 – Gabriela Guimaraes of Brazil v Dominican Republic (August 9)
25 – Nataliya Goncharova of Russia v Brazil (August 3)
Top Blocking Performances
9 – Milena Rasic of Serbia v Puerto Rico (August 4)
8 - Robin De Kruijf of Netherlands v Algeria (August 11)
8 – Annerys Vargas of Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico (August 10)
7 – Cristina Barreto of Brazil v Poland (August 2)
7 – Strashimira Filipova of Bulgaria v Puerto Rico (August 9)
Top Blocking Performances by Team
18 – Poland v Russia (August 4)
17 – Italy v Germany (August 4)
17 – Brazil v Poland (August 2)
17 – Kazakhstan v Germany (August 2)
16 – Russia v Poland (August 4)
16 – Serbia v Puerto Rico (August 4)
16 – Dominican Republic v Puerto Rico (August 3)
16 – Brazil v Russia (August 3)
Top Serving Performances
7 - Saori Kimura of Japan v Poland (August 11)
6 - Neslihan Darnel of Turkey v China (August 11)
5 – Denise Hanke of Germany v Kazakhstan (August 2)
5 – Sana Jarlagassova of Kazakhstan v Germany (August 2)
Top Serving Performances by Team
13 - Turkey v China (August 11)
12 - Turkey v Argentina (August 9)
12 – Argentina v Kazakhstan (August 4)
11 – Germany v Poland (August 10)
11 – Serbia v Algeria (August 10)
11 – China v Cuba (August 3)
10 - Netherlands v Algeria (August 11)
10 - Germany v Kazakhstan (August 11)
10 - Japan v Poland (August 11)
10 – Germany v Argentina (August 3)
10 – Serbia v Czech Republic (August 3)
Highest Scorer by Round
Week 1: Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata of Poland, 41 v Russia (August 4)
Week 2: Yukiko Ebata of Japan, 28 v Kazakhstan (August 10)
Highest Set Score
Week 1: Poland v Russia, 30-28 (August 4)
Japan v Turkey, 30-28 (August 4)
Week 2: Argentina v Turkey, 36-34 (August 9)
Highest Scoring Matches
Week 1: Russia v Poland, 3-2 (25-21, 22-25, 29-27, 28-30, 15-13) – 235 points
Week 2: Bulgaria v Dominican Republic, 2-3 (22-25, 25-18, 23-25, 30-28, 14-16) - 226 points
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