SAPPORO, Japan, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Serbia on Thursday crushed the defending champions the United States 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23) in the World Grand Prix Finals held here.
The European champions led by Jovana Brakocevic and Brankica Mihajlovic, both of whom gained 22 and 20 points respectively, while Kelly Murphy was the top score for the defending champions with 23 points.
The Serbs had nine blocking points and the United States had seven.
American Kelly Murphy landed two early bombs to give her team a boost but Serbia's Brankica Mihajlovic got into a good groove with four clean kills in the first phase of the match and Serbia were five points ahead at the first technical timeout. Two big thumps by Mihajlovic gave Serbia a three-point advantage at the second technique timeout.
The Americans almost completed an impressive comeback after saving three set-points, but Milena Rasic shut the door with a convincing shot down the middle that gave Serbia a 1-0 lead.
The second set started much as the first had ended with the Americans very much equal to their Serbian opponents. Jenna Hagglund came in later and delivered two service aces that helped move the Americans into a four-point lead at 17-13 and they never really looked in danger after that. A Hill ace brought set-point and Kristin Hildebrand blocked Mihajlovic to end the set and even the match at 1-1.
The United States had the early advantage in the third set but some crunching kills by Brakocevic kept Serbia in touch. The Serbian then came up with two aces as her team moved four points ahead at 12-8.
Kiraly called timeouts at 10-8 and 14-9 to try and get his team back on track but the Americans fell six points back at 17-11 after two kills by Mihajlovic, who brought set-point with a monster hit down the middle before Nicole Fawcett sent a shot wide, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead in the match.
Serbia got nice blocks from Maja Ognjenovic and Milena Rasic early in the fourth set but the Americans came back with good shots from Regan Hood and Hildebrand, and an ace by Gibbemeyer as they took the lead for the first time at 13-12.
No team could get more than a point ahead until 21-21 when a good serve by Brakocevic set up an easy shot for Natasa Krsmanovic to put Serbia 23-21 ahead.
Two match-points came after a neatly placed tip-over from Brakocevic, and Serbian captain Ognjenovic finished things off with a classy first-time tip-over at the net.
The Serbs will play hosts Japan on Friday and the United States will fight against China also on Thursday.