Japan's reigning world champions Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara crashed out of the badminton women's doubles at the Tokyo Games on Thursday in a 21-14, 14-21, 28-26 quarterfinal defeat to South Korean pair Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong.
Matsumoto and Nagahara rallied from a game down to even a pulsating contest at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, but the third seeds proved to be the architects of their own downfall, failing to convert several match points in a nerve-shredding final game.
"It hurts that we weren't able to show what we are made of at the end," said Nagahara. "I feel bad for all the people that have given us their support."
Matsumoto added, "All the effort we have put in until now has gone to waste in this game and I feel really bad about that. I got the impression that the South Korean pair's aggressive play put us under pressure."
Japan's hopes of capturing a second straight Olympic title in the women's doubles event ended later in the day as top seeds Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota lost 18-21, 21-10, 21-10 to second-seeded Chinese pair Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.
Earlier, Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino suffered semifinal heartbreak as they were overpowered by Chinese pair Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping in the mixed doubles.
Watanabe and Higashino, the first Japanese pair to reach the last four of the event at the Olympics, took the opening game but the second-seeded Chinese rallied to reach the final thanks to a 21-23, 21-15, 21-14 win.
Wang and Huang will play compatriots and top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, who defeated Hong Kong's Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet 21-16, 21-12. Watanabe and Higashino will face Tang and Tse in the bronze medal match.
"Our opponents simply played better than we did," said Watanabe. "But there is no time to reflect as we have another match coming up. For now, we just have to get prepared for that."
Higashino said, "Our opponents were determined not to lose the match as well and (after winning the opening game) we allowed them opportunities to attack and increasingly put us on the back foot."
Watanabe and Higashino won the bronze medal at the 2019 world championships in Switzerland and will be aiming to replicate that feat in their next match on Friday.
It turned out to be a bad day all round for Watanabe as he and Hiroyuki Endo were eliminated from the men's doubles competition, the fourth seeds losing 21-16, 21-19 to Taiwan's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin in the quarterfinals.
Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda also exited the last eight after going down 21-14, 16-21, 21-9 to second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.
In women's singles action, 2019 world silver medalist Nozomi Okuhara reached the quarterfinals and was joined in the last eight by compatriot Akane Yamaguchi.
Okuhara downed Canada's Michelle Li 21-9, 21-7, while Yamaguchi also scored a straight-games win, beating South Korea's Kim Gae Un 21-17, 21-18.
In the men's singles, Kanta Tsuneyama lost to Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia 21-18, 21-14 in the round of 16.