The last time Saina Nehwal played Nozomi Okuhara was more than a year ago, at the Glasgow World Championships.

And when the Indian met the Japanese in the women’s team badminton quarterfinal of the 18th Asian Games at the GBK Istora Stadium here on Monday, Nehwal felt that her opponent had changed tremendously.

Asian Games Live, Day 2

Okuhara had been a great retriever earlier but now Nehwal realised that she had become more of an attacking player.

It took Nehwal time to settle down in the second singles and once she did, she troubled the World No. 8, moving her nicely and picking up plenty of points with her smart net play. But just when she appeared ripe for a win, Nehwal cracked.

And though World No. 3 P.V. Sindhu defeated Akane Yamaguchi who is one rung above her in the world rankings, Nehwal loss virtually stopped India’s run in an event where it had won a bronze at the last Asiad. It did not take the Japanese long to win the series 3-1 and enter the semifinal.

“In the third game, the rallies were getting longer and I was trying to get more easy points. After 16 or 17, somehow I knew that someone would crack,” said Nehwal. “I made many unnecessary errors in the last three or four points, I could have played more rallies well. But I did my best.”

Japan had won the Uber Cup, virtually the World women’s team championships in Thailand in May, and it had beaten India 5-0 when they had met then. Chief coach P. Gopi Chand tried to change the doubles combinations, breaking up the Ashwini Ponnappa-Sikki Reddy pair and pairing the two with different partners, in an effort to unsettle the Japanese.

Reddy partnered Arathi Sara Sunil while Ponnappa teamed up with Sindhu but it did not make much of a difference in the end.

Later the Indian men crashed out too, losing to Indonesia 3-1 in the quarterfinal. The host was backed by a loud crowd and the signs were not good for India as its best bet K. Srikanth (World No. 8) lost to Anthony Ginting, ranked four rungs below him, in the opening singles.

H.S. Prannoy defeated Christie Jonatan for the lone Indian victory in the five-match event.

Results (quarterfinals):