Saina Nehwal on Friday etched her name in the history book by assuring herself of at least a bronze medal after reaching the semifinals of the World Badminton Championship in Jakarta.
The World No. 2 Indian showed tremendous athleticism and precision to outwit 2011 edition gold medallist and former World No. 1 Wang Yihan 21-15 19-21 21-19 in an hour and 12 minutes gruelling battle.
The Olympic bronze medallist will next take on Indonesia's Lindaweni Fanetri, against whom Saina has a 2-1 record.
With this win, Saina broke her jinx of reaching the semifinals in her last five outings and became the second Indian female singles shuttler to assure of a medal after PV Sindhu, who had won the bronze twice in 2013 and 2014.
This will be Saina's maiden medal at the World Championship.
The pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had won India a bronze medal in the women's doubles competition in 2011 after a gap of 28 years.
On a day, Sindhu failed to complete a hat-trick of medals at the World Championships and 13th seeds Jwala and Ashwini also fell at the quarterfinals, Saina showed her prowess as she dug her heels and rode on her accurate strokes and fitness to emerge victories at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
In the opening game, Wang had opened up a 7-4 lead early on but Saina produced some brilliant strokes to draw level at 8-8. A deception at the front court took the Indian to 10-8 before Wang's erratic service helped Saina to go into the break with a slender 11-10 advantage.
Post interval, a long rally ended with Saina reaching 13-11 after Wang shot was buried at the nets. A couple of long shot by Wang saw Saina reach 15-11. The Indian rushed on to a net shot to concede a point but she bounced back with a body smash.
A net dribble took Saina to 19-15 and with Wang finding the net again meant the Indian had five game point advantage. Saina didn't waste any time and sealed it with another razor sharp cross court smash, which found Wang napping.
In the second game, Wang came out all cylinder blazing and caught Saina on the wrong foot initially to reach 3-1. A long rally ended with Saina challenging a call, which she lost as Wang led 4-1.
Saina slowly found her bearing as she rode on her power smash, immaculate touch and athleticism to claw back after another long rally. She took lead at 6-5 with an aggressive smash.
A couple of unforced error by Wang helped Saina go into the break with a three-point cushion at 11-8 as shouts of 'Jai ho' from the Indian crowd resonated in the stadium.
After the break, Saina continued to stamp her authority as she outwitted an onrushing Wang by pushing the shuttle at the back. Wang came back to level score at 13-13 with Saina faltering with her line. The Chinese then took a two-point lead with some aggressive net play and accurate placement of shot.
Wang reeled off eight straight points to suddenly turn the game in her favour, reaching 17-13. But Saina broke the stream with a delectable drop shot and narrowed the gap down to 19-20 before an experienced Wang snatched it away when Saina couldn't reach for a stroke at the back.
In the decider, Wang straight away put Saina under pressure, leading 4-1. Saina came back with a brilliant rally and then floored Wang with another controlled smash but a few errors by the Indian helped Wang lead 6-3.
Saina exploited Wang's weakness at the left side of the court to make it 4-6 and dominated a parallel game and drew parity with a point at net at 8-8. The duo moved to 10-10 before Wang took a marginal one-point advantage when she found Saina napping.
Wang continued to create chances and moved to 14-12, before Saina again drew parity at 14-14. The duo moved neck-and-neck to 15-15. Luck too seemed to favour Wang as a shot tripped over the net to give her 17-15 lead.
However, Saina once again roared back to level par at 18-18. The Indian produced a body smash to grab the lead at 19-18. After conceding a point in a long rally, Saina gained the match point at 20-19 after a cross court smash.
Without any delay, Saina grabbed the next point as Wang hit wide.
Earlier, Sindhu, seeded 11th, was second best in the battle of attrition, going down 17-21 21-19 16-21 to the eighth seed in a match lasting an hour and 22 minutes.
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa also lost to the Japanese duo of Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao 23-25 14-21 in the women's doubles quarterfinals.