On Tuesday China lost the hard way, going down 3-2 to Brazil after leading 2-0. Yesterday there was no such drama. This time they lost the easy way, 3-0 to a United States team led by the former coach of China's women's team, Jenny Lang Ping. It was a famous victory for the fifth-ranked US team, but another shattering loss for the world number one and defending champions in the quadrennial World Grand Champions Cup. China's chances of retaining the title they won in 2001 are as good as over after just two of the five games, and any talk of a step forward toward the Beijing Olympics has been replaced by fears of a step backward in the world order for the reigning Olympic champions. China's head coach, Chen Zhonghe, blamed the defeat (25-22, 25-23, 26-24) on the players being exhausted from the National Games in Nanjing last month, and on the fact that they had not enough time to prepare. Diplomatically, Lang agreed with him. 'They also played five hard sets against Brazil,' said Lang, China's coach from 1995 to 1998. 'I don't think it means too much for China because they are trying some young players.' It was Lang's first victory over her home country, and admitted it had surprised her a little. 'Last time we lost to China 3-0, and this time I thought we could win one set. 'In the end we got more, and I am happy to see the improvements in my team.' Lang started working with the US national team in May, after six years coaching in the Italian professional league. A 3-2 victory over the mighty Cuba in September earned the US a place in the US$800,000 women's World Grand Champions Cup as champions of the Norceca confederation, so China had no excuses for not knowing what to expect at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium yesterday. The Americans were better in all aspects, especially blocking, meaning China had to work hard for every point against such determined and motivated opposition. In defence, China had no answers to the left-handed spiking of Nancy Metcalf, who scored a team-high 18 points, or the net play of the two-metre tall Tayyiba Haneef, who plays in Japan's pro volleyball league for Takefuji Bamboo. With 17 points, Haneef pounced on anything loose at the net, while the razor-sharp, angled spikes of Metcalf scattered the Chinese defence across the court.