Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal ran into tough opposition in the quarterfinals of the World Badminton Championship being played in Copenhagen, Denmark as she lost 21-15, 21-15 to a superior player in world no.1 Li Xuerui of China.
The loss meant Saina had to bow out in the quarterfinal stage of the world event for the fifth consecutive time.
Xuerui led 11-8 in the first game going into the break but she soon extended a five-point advantage at 15-10 before wrapping up the game 21-15 in her favour. Xuerui, however, looked eager to close out the match quickly as she went smashing at every half-opportunity. The world no.1 made a lot of unforced errors in the process.
In the second game, Saina took the lead at 5-4 and then worked her way up to 9-5 with some clever smashes aimed at Xuerui's body. During the break, Saina led 11-8 after dropping the first game. However, Xuerui upped the pressure on Saina with some great smashes and cross-court drop shots of her own that left the Indian looking surprised.
There were some great rallies exchanged throughout the course of the match but the Chinese's unrelenting defense meant Saina had to swallow a bitter 21-15, 21-15 loss in the end.
Earlier, China's Xuerui had blasted away compatriot Han Li as she strode into the quarterfinals, beating her 12th-seeded opponent 21-9, 21-17 in just 27 minutes.
On the other hand, Saina had to work hard to beat 13th seed Sayaka Takahashi of Japan 14-21, 21-18, 21-12 on her way to the quarterfinals.
Some bitter words had also been exchanged between Saina and Xuerui ahead of the highly awaited quarterfinal match-up.
On Wednesday, Saina called for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to reduce the number of entrants per country at international tournaments to curb China's dominance in the sport.
Top-ranked Li, one of four Chinese representatives in the women's draw, had responded by saying: "Let her beat me first...she still has to face (Chinese players) whether there's two or three of us.
Among other Indians at the World Championship, 11th-seeded PV Sindhu, who upset world No.5 Yeon Ju Bae of South Korea 19-21 22-20 25-23, will take on world No.2 Shixian Wang of China in the quarterfinals later on Friday. Sindhu won a historic bronze medal in the event last year.
(With agency inputs)