Seventh seed Saina, who improved a rung in the world rankings today to be sixth, lost 17-21 21-9 15-21 to Porntip, who jumped three places to world number 10, at the Hong Kong Coliseum here. Ajay Jayaram's campaign in the men's singles competition also came to an end after he went down 18-21 12-21 to Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in a 36-minute match.
Olympic bronze medallist, Saina, held a 6-0 record against the Thai girl before the match but it counted for little during the 50-minute battle between the two shuttlers. Saina tried to dominate the nets but Porntip didn't give her too many opportunities. She had all the answers to Saina's smashes, four more than the Indian. The first game saw Porntip breaking free at 10-10 after Saina had opened up a 7-4 early lead.
The Thai girl was better prepared for the battle as she registered five straight points to create a huge gap between her and Saina and then kept her nose ahead to lead 1-0.
In the second game, Saina came back firing on all cylinders and after being locked 4-4 early on, dominated the proceedings completely, accumulating points at will. She reached 10-4 and then moved to 14-6 as Porntip's game crumbled.
In the decider, however, Porntip got her act together and led 3-0 initially. Saina could pose a fight only for the next two points but after that the Thai girl managed to maintain a distance and soon shut the door on the Indian.
Plagued by injuries and inconsistent form, Saina has endured the worst season of her career as she has so far failed to win a single title this year. Hong Kong Open brings an end to the 12-leg Superseries circuit of the season and Saina will now try her luck in the season-ending BWF Superseries Final which will held in Kuala Lumpur next month.
Saina is ranked second in the Superseries Standings but it will be a tough task as the even will have the top eight shuttlers vying for the top prize money of USD 500,000. The other Indian in fray, Ajay failed to negotiate the powerful smashes of Sony, who registered as many as 17 smash winners, compared to the Indian's 4.
Though Ajay was better at the nets, it didn't matter in the end. Sony opened up a 4-0 lead early on but the Indian clawed back soon and moved together till 9-9.
However, Sony once again surged ahead with six straight points and didn't allow Ajay to come back in the first game. In the second game, Sony was more dominating as he didn't allow Ajay any chance of a fight and from 8-6, kept extending the lead to eventually close the issue comfortably.