Dubai: India's challenge ended at the BWF Super Series Finals after Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth lost their respective women's and men's singles matches in contrasting styles here today.
Having won one match and lost one, Saina had to win her final league match against Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei today but she squandered one-game advantage to go down 21-16 18-21 14-21 in a battle that lasted 50 minutes to bow out of the tournament.
Earlier, Srikanth, who had already exited after losing yesterday's match, continued with his poor run of form as he suffered his third successive defeat in the men's singles, losing to Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien-chen 17-21 13-21 in a 32-minute contest.
With Saina losing two out of three matches, Carolina Marin and Nozomi Okuhara have advanced to the next round. Three players have finished with one win and two losses each. Saina missed the cut after taking into account of games won versus games lost.
Okuhara, having won all three matches, emerged on top while Marin's record of 3-4 (-1) stands to be the second best in the group.
The Olympic bronze medallist Saina had everything to play for today and she showed her determination in a draining hard-fought match, but unfortunately she failed to sustain till the end.
The opening game was a closely-fought affair. Although Saina opened up a 3-1 lead, her rival kept breathing down her neck to catch her up first at 5-5 and then at 9-9 before the Indian went into the break with a slender 11-9 edge.
After the break, Saina used her net play and smashes effectively, besides capitalising on her opponent's unforced errors, to run away with the game 21-16.
Tzu-ying saved three match points at 13-21 but Saina maintained her composure to seal the opening game with a cross court smash.
In the second game, Saina suddenly started to struggle and lagged behind 5-11 at the break owing to a number of unforced errors.
Up 5-3, the Taipei girl bagged four more points to open up a 9-4 gap and then extended it further to 13-5. But Saina scripted a fabulous comeback by winning four points on the trot to reduce the gap to 9-13 and then another four points to further lessen the margin to 14-16 before catching her rival at 16-16. Tzu-ying hitting the net frequently also helped Saina's cause.
However, the Taipei girl kept her nerves intact to secure three consecutive points to once again take a 20-16 lead. Saina saved two game points, but Tzu-ying bagged that one important point to take the match to the decider.
Saina completely ran out of steam in third game. Tzu-ying first took a 4-1 lead and then continued to surge ahead to surge to 17-9 before wrapping it up rather comfortably in the end.
Earlier, the 22-year Srikanth old from Guntur, who had a 1-0 record against the Taipei player, having beaten him at Hong Kong Open, today struggled with his strokes.
Srikanth proved no match to his opponent, winning just 30 points as compared to 42 by the Taipei shuttler.
In the opening game, the Taipei player straight away opened up a 3-0 lead and kept on extending it, even as Srikanth played the catch-up game to eventually lose it 17-21.
Srikanth, however, showed some fight in the second game and it was neck-and-neck till the break with scored tied at 11-11. But after the interval, Tien-chen won five points on the trot to surge ahead. Although Srikanth won a couple of points, the Taipei shuttler did not give the Indian any more chance to make a comeback, bagging four more successive points to seal the match in his favour.
Saina said it was hard to read the strokes of her Chinese Taipei opponent as she was very tricky at the net. "After the first game I felt my legs getting heavy. Yesterday was a tough match and I had trouble recovering. I came in without much preparation, so am happy with my performance here," said Saina after losing her match.
"Tai Tzu-ying is a tough player, very tricky at the net, and it's hard to read her strokes," she added.