TOKYO (Reuters) -Rio gold medallists China suffered a third straight defeat in women’s volleyball at the Olympics on Thursday to leave their title defence in tatters while world champions Serbia remained unbeaten with a win over Kenya.
After two straight-sets defeats, China finally rediscovered their mojo and even had a 2-1 lead against the Russian Olympic Committee team, who mounted a late comeback to win 25-17 23-25 20-25 27-25 15-12.
With only one point, China risk missing out on the knockouts with two rounds left and coach Lang Ping had more bad news when she said injured skipper and talisman Zhu Ting might not play their remaining games.
“Her injury just couldn’t heal and she still has two matches. I don’t know if she can continue to play,” she said.
“We will ask the doctor’s opinion about it… Her injury did affect her performance, she looks hesitant when she tries to block.”
China are fifth in Pool B, three points behind Turkey. Only the top four qualify for the quarter-finals.
Turkey, who beat China in their opener, became the first team to take a set off the United States and nearly gave them a scare before the Americans won 25-19 25-20 17-25 20-25 15-12 to remain unbeaten.
Serbia, silver medallists in 2016, were in complete control throughout the match and only trailed briefly in the third when they took their foot off the gas against winless Kenya.
But top scorer Brzankica Mihajlovic (17 points) got her team back on track as they stayed perfect in their pool with a 25-21 25-11 25-20 victory ahead of the big clash against second-ranked Brazil.
“We know we are here with big ambitions,” Bianka Busa said. “Since 2015, we have won the world championship, (been) two-time European champions, so this Olympics we expect a lot. We’ve prepared for five years for this one.”
‘THEY ARE SO TALL’
Earlier, South Korea edged the Dominican Republic in a see-saw five-setter with a thrilling 25-20 17-25 25-18 15-25 15-12 win, with captain Kim Yeon-koung leading the way with 20 points.
“They are so tall and they have good technique, they are a good physical team. So we had to use our defence and be smart,” Kim said, referring to the towering Dominicans, whose top scorer Brayelin Martinez is 2.01m tall.
“We tried everything, we tried to serve strong, read the rhythm of their players, how they react for the ball and how they defend. We prepared so much for this and we deserved this result.”
Italy beat Argentina in straight sets in Pool B, wrapping up a 25-21 25-16 25-15 victory in just 72 minutes as Paola Egonu top scored for a third straight match with 17 points.
Brazil beat hosts Japan in straight sets 25-16 25-18 26-24.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis)