Indian badminton contingent's disappointing season continues as veteran Saina Nehwal crashed out of Korea Open 2018 in the quarter-final after losing to higher-ranked Nozomi Okuhara of Japan at the SK Handball Stadium in Seoul.
Saina had started the match slowly, letting Okuhara race to a 3-0 lead but the 28-year-old former world number one fought back to take the first game 21-15. However, the Japanese shuttler, a former world champion, forced a decider by taking the second 21-15.
The Indian shuttler regained composure and was cruising towards a semi-final berth as she was leading 20-16. However, she let Okuhara save four match points and eventually get past the finish line on Friday.
Saina seemed to struggle with her on-court movement towards the end of the match as she played with a strapping on her right thigh.
It was an agonising end to Saina's campaign as the world number 10 was looking good to bury the disappointment of a first-round exit in last week's China Open — the season's final World Tour Super 1000 tournament.
She had opted out of Japan Open in order to give herself some rest following the bronze medal-winning performance at the Asian Games. Nonetheless, she was looking in fine form, beating local shuttlers Kim Hyo Min and Ga Eun Kim in the first two rounds of the ongoing tournament.
Sania will be next seen in action in Denmark Open — a World Tour Super 750 tournament, starting October 16.
Saina has managed to get medals at major tournaments this season — gold at Commonwealth Games, bronze at world championships and Asian Games. However, her performance on the tour has been far from impressive.
Barring the season-opening Indonesia Masters, in which she had reached the final, Saina had struggled for consistency, much like many shuttlers in the Indian contingent.
Meanwhile, India's only competitor in the men's singles category — Sameer Verma had crashed out of the Korea Open after losing the first-round to Anders Antonsen of Denmark.
PV Sindhu, who was ousted in the quarter-final of China Open last week, did not travel to Seoul. Top-ranked men's singles shuttlers from the country — Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy also skipped the Super 500 tournament.