It was billed to be her best chance of winning the coveted title, but Saina Nehwal let it slip as she went down in straight games to unseeded Eriko Hirose of Japan in the quarterfinals of the prestigious All England Badminton Championship in Birmingham on Friday.
The fifth-seeded Saina failed to take advantage of being in the 'easy half' of the draw - given the absence of some top Chinese shuttlers and defending champion, Tine Baun of Denmark - and lost to the unheralded rival 11-21, 20-22.
The match was contested evenly initially but Hirose, who had lost to Saina in the Indonesia Super Series semifinal last year, wrested control by breaking through the rallies that Saina generally wraps up in her favour.
The Indian came back in the second game which went neck-and-neck, but later fell short as Hirose, ranked 17, held her nerves to clinch the issue.The world No. 4, who turns 21 next week, failed to match up to her last year's performance in this tournament, where she had reached the semifinals. With this loss, India's campaign at the event has come to an end as all the other Indians have already crashed out.
Meanwhile, defending champion Lin Dan of China and world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia inched closer to their dream final, securing last-four berths with easy victories.