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Russian women upset Chinese in Olympic beach volleyball
Adding even more drama and excitment to the opening day of the London 2012 Olympic Games women's beach volleyball competition being held in a sold-out, purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium at the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London, the opening match of the competition saw a three-set thriller Saturday morning, Russia’s youthful 23rd-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova upset China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang starting the first of three sessions.
In the stunning upset to get things going Saturday, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova dominated a team that is expected to be seriously in the gold medal hunt who also won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. And to make the victory even more dramatic, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova had to come from behind to pull out the three-set victory in 53 minutes, 18-21, 21-14 and 16-14.
It was the first meeting between the two teams and after China’s Xue/Zhang won a close first set 21-18 where it seemed that the Chinese weren’t playing at their normally high level, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova, playing like they had nothing to lose, came back in the second set for a relatively easy 21-14 win before the thrilling overtime tiebreaker set. In the third set, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova jumped out to a commanding 8-3 lead only to watch the powerful Chinese reel off five straight points to tie it at 8-8. After pulling back ahead at 12-11, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova saw China’s Xue/Zhang scored three straight and take a 14-12 lead, but the less experienced Russians stopped four consecutive match-point attempts by the Chinese duo, ending the match with two impressive blocks by Vasina over Zhang’s kill attempts.
Statistically, Russia’s Vasina had two aces, seven successful attacks, and nine blocks while Vozakova contributed four aces, 21 successful attacks, and 18 digs. For China, Xue had four aces, 12 successful attacks, three blocks and eight digs and her teammate Zhang had two ace serves, 24 successful attacks and 10 digs.
A happy Vasina said afterwards, “The key to winning this match was our serve, we really took risks with that and it helped us beat a great team.”
Vozakova commented, “I think I was a little bit nervous and got confused in the first set. I tried to do the blocking instead of Anastasia and when we switched back it really, really helped us and she had so many blocks.”
A very disappointed Zhang said after her team’s loss, “I did not feel right before the match and maybe our preparation wasn’t right. We must focus better on our next match against Switzerland on Monday. The Russians played really great. There’s been a lot of pressure on us and we made a lot of mistakes, particularly with saves.”
Each day in London features three sessions of four matches each, two each for men and women. The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games is being held through August 9. Currently the 24 teams per gender have been split into six, four-team pools and are playing round robin matches once every two days before the field is narrowed to 16 teams for the finals single-elimination bracket phase.