Kraljevo, Serbia, May 27, 2018 - Ivan Zaytsev was the hero once again as Italy brilliantly ended their Serbia hoodoo and maintained a 100% VNL record with a thumping straight sets win 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16).
Wing spiker Zaytsev racked up an incredible, tournament high 32 points against Brazil on Saturday and he was back in the swing against Serbia, scoring 17 points (including three aces) as the Italians beat their Balkan rivals for the first time since 2015.
Fellow wing spiker Osmany Juantorena (12 points) was another hero for Gianlorenzo Blengini’s men.
This win means on-song Italy have now won three from three in this inaugural VNL campaign while extending their unbeaten record to an impressive seven games.
It's the first time they have maintain such a streak since September 2015 and now head into second week matches in Argentina against Canada and Iran with great confidence.
For Serbia, however, this crushing loss on home turf compounded a difficult start to the tournament - Saturday’s win over Germany was preceded by a straight-sets loss against Brazil on Friday.
Only Marko Ivovic (seven spikes) and Alexsandar Atanasijevic (seven spikes and one block) emerged with any credit.
With matches in Sofia against hosts Bulgaria and a strong Russian side, it promises to be another testing set of matches for Serbia.
While the first set was tight, the second saw Italy run away comprehensively and drain the confidence out of the Serbs who simply found Zaytsev’s spiking too hot to handle.
His serving also caused problems - he reached speeds of 134 kph - and although the error count was high with the Italians producing 23 to Serbia’s 24, the quality of Blengini’s side was there for all to see.
On this evidence, the Italians are looking good for a seriously deep run and will be pushing for glory over the next few weeks.