Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal played her heart out but eventually ran out of steam as French Hongyan Pi beat her in a gruelling quarterfinal encounter of the Malaysian Super Series in Kuala Lumpur. The World number 10 Indian went down 17-21 26-24 16-21 to Pi, whom she had beaten in the World Super Series last month, after a nerve-wracking 56-minute battle. World number eight Pi made her intentions clear right from the start and opened a 9-6 lead before stretching it to 15-9.
But Saina soon narrowed the gap to 13-15 claiming four straight points. However, the Indian could not keep up the pace and the first game slipped out of her hands 17-21. Pushed to the brink, Saina came back strongly in the next game going neck to neck from 5-5 to 16-16 before Pi pocketed three quick points to open a three-point lead at 19-16 but a gutsy Saina smashed three points to draw level. Levelled at 24-24, Saina broke loose and grabbed two quick points to pocket the game 26-24 and stay afloat in the match.
However, the Hyderabadi teen run out of steam in the last games and after some initial resistance, she lost the plot as Pi walked away with the game 21-16.
Saina will next play in the Korea Super Series from January 13-18 next week.