Guangzhou, Nov 18 - India's strong medal hope Saina Nehwal crashed out of the women's singles badminton quarterfinals, losing 8-21, 21-8, 19-21 to Hong Kong's Pui Yin Yip in a tense encounter at the Asian Games here Thursday.
World No. 3 Saina, seeded second here, saved a matchpoint but that was not enough to see off the strong challenge of World No. 12 Pui, a silver medallist at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Playing the last game of the day, Pui took an unexpected 5-2 lead and then hung on to put the pressure on the Indian.
Saina looked nervous, committing a slew of errors, while Pui focussed on finishing the points quickly with her sharp smashes.
Saina, however, came back strongly in the second game. After getting a measure of Pui's game, Saina slowed down the match and engaged her in rallies, before going for the kill.
She made Pui play all round the court and dictated the points. Saina got her touch back at the net and produced some good drop shots. It was Pui's turn to become nervy as she made errors in judging the shuttle.
The two players fought fiercely in the decider to be locked at 5-5 before Pui nosed ahead 8-5, reeling off three points but Saina fought back to level at 10-all.
From there on it was a neck-and-neck battle as they were tied at 16-16. When Saina nicely set up a point with a long rally and caught Pui off guard with a drop shot to level at 17-all, it looked like it was the Indian who was destined to have the last laugh.
But Pui refused to throw in the towel and used her smashes to reach the match point at 20-18. Saina, who had saved two match points to win the gold at the Commonwealth Games, staved off one here, but fell in the next.
After this victory Pui leads 2-1 head-to-head against Saina. The two last played in the 2009 French Open Super series, when the Indian had won.