Struggling with a sore back, ace shuttler V. Diju and his mixed doubles partner Jwala Gutta suffered a straight game defeat to South Korea’s Sung Hyun Ko and Jung Eun in the quarterfinals of the World Badminton Championships on Friday.

The ninth-seed Indians lost 16-21, 19-21 to the 12th seeds Koreans in a 31-minute battle to end India’s hopes in the mixed doubles category.

It was apparent midway through the first game when Diju clutched his lower back that movement at the back court was getting painful for him. Still he managed to earn points but the errors piled on.

Jwala Gutta did her bit at the net and once in a while played back court but couldn’t stem the aggression of the South Korean pair, who used the smash and mid court placements to telling effect.

“It was a struggle,” said Jwala.

“We knew we were in a strong position having beaten the same team before but with Diju struggling it was difficult to maintain a set momentum,” she said.

The Koreans managed to lead in the first game by at least two points and then capitalising on the errors by the Indians closed out the game 21-16 to lead the match 1-0.

The Indians did come back strongly in the second game.

Leading 2-0 initially, they moved to 5-4 before Diju’s sore back restricted him from leaping and smashing even when there were openings.

He started using the drop shot from the back court. The Koreans sensing that he was unable to move used the high toss to rattle off a few crucial points and take the lead 6-5.

But Gutta and Diju fought back to seize the initiative and led 11-10 at the second game break. Korea, however, equalised at 12-12 and then led 15-12 with a series of powerful smashes.

With some deft placements at the net, Jwala earned crucial points to draw parity at 16-16. But the back court was a problem with India as Diju was finding it difficult to bend and pick up the baseline corner smashes.

India still managed to make a fight of it and equalised at 19-19 as the crowd started supporting India. But two errors at the net and a shot across the sideline ended India’s hopes of a semifinal at the World Championships.

“We knew we were the better team and it is very difficult to come to terms with this loss,” said Jwala.

“Right after the match, Diju had to be rushed to the massage centre and I hope his back gets okay fast.” Speaking on the team’s future plans, Jwala said, “Our aim is to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics and to do well there.

We were very sure of a semifinal here but that’s the way sport is.”

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