Japan fell short in its bid to upset table tennis superpower China on Tuesday, losing 3-0 in the women's team final at the Asian Games.
China's world No. 1 Sun Yingsha, No. 2 Chen Meng and No.3 Wang Manyu overcame challenges from Hina Hayata, Miu Hirano and Miwa Harimoto in front of a packed crowd at Gongshu Canal Sports Park Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China.
With the top two women's teams in the world rankings going head to head, the table tennis team final turned out to be one of the most closely watched events at Asia's version of the Olympics.
Hirano, ranked 16th in the world, came within three points of beating Chen in the second match of the best-of-five tie. The world No. 2, however, battled back to win 12-10, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5.
"My match was the closest of the three contests," Chen said. "It was a very tough match. I found a way to win. Now it's hard to find words to describe this excitement."
Top-ranked Sun downed Hayata 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9 in the opening match.
Wang dropped the opening game of the third match but won the next three for a 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 13-11 victory to wrap up the tie against 15-year-old Harimoto, whose parents are from China and whose brother is world No.4 Tomokazu.
Harimoto held a game point at 10-6 in the fourth game before Wang took it to deuce and then prevailed.
"I believe this was the hardest battle we've ever given China," Hayata said. "We did the best we could but lost again. I just have mixed emotions about that."
Japan was bidding to win its first Asian Games women's table tennis team gold since the 1966 meet in Bangkok.