Shenzhen: India's World No.3 shuttler Saina Nehwal ran out of steam in the semi-final against top seed and reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China in the women's singles semifinal of the $500,000 BWF World Super Series Finals here on Saturday.
Saina, who started the game in superb fashion, lost to the World No.2 Chinese 20-22, 21-7, 13-21 in 50 minutes in front of a hostile crowd at the China Resources Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre. Li improved her head-to-head to 5-2 against the fourth seed.
Saina dominated the first game right from the start taking a 6-0 lead against the London Olympics gold medallist. Li used her deft drops to earn most of her points as Saina remained in third court for most of the first game.
Reigning Olympic champion Li defeated Saina 22-20, 7-21, 21-13 in 50 minutes.
Though the 22-year-old Indian maintained lead throughout the game, Li tried fighting back bringing Saina's lead down to 14-11. Both players were making each other move on the court with defensive games and not taking too many risks.
Saina then attacked and won six straight points to take a lead of 19-13 which was reduced to 19-16 by Li. Saina then won a deft point to be on game-point (20-16). But the 21-year-old Chinese came back to win six straight points and take the game away from the jaws of the Indian.
The second game, however, belonged to the Hyderabadi. Saina took a 8-point lead in the beginning of the match and kept extending the lead to clinch the game with ease. The decider was a topsy-turvy one with neither player giving the other too much room to win points. Li dominated the game but the fourth seed took the lead for the first time at 9-8.
At 11-all the match was poised dead even but the Chinese displayed superior skill and speed to take the game and match away from Saina. Li needed only one game-point to enter the final of the year-ending event.
The Indian shuttler had reached the final of the tournament last year where she suffered a heartbreaking defeat against World No.1 Yihan Wang of China. The women's singles final will be an all Chinese event as Li will meet compatriot and third seed Shixian Wang, who beat Group B topper Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-12, 21-19.