Defending champion Saina Nehwal crashed out of the Denmark Super Series Premier after a shock defeat to Korea's Sung Ji Hyun in the quarter-finals of the women's singles in Odense on Friday.
The world No 4 Indian committed too many unforced errors after winning the first game and went down 21-13, 18-21, 19-21 to the sixth seeded Sung in 66 minutes.
Saina, who had a 4-0 record against Ji Hyun before Friday’s match, had beaten the Korean in last year's Indonesia Open but past results did not count much as the Korean matched the Indian with her strokes and stamina at the Odense Sports Park.
In the opening game, Saina moved to a 4-1 lead but Sung soon turned tables and managed a slender 11-10 lead at the break. The Indian regained the lead with a flick of the wrist at the net and, with the Korean making a series of unforced errors, extended it to 15-11.
Saina hit long and then committed an error in judgement to help Sung narrow the lead to 13-15 but the Indian did not allow her opponent anymore leeway as she took 20-13 lead. Sung then faltered with a flick at the net and Saina won the opening game.
Playing on the other side of the court in the second game, Saina took a little time to judge the length of the shuttle initially which allowed Sung to have a 2-0 lead. But a drop and a lucky point at the net helped the Indian to make it 3-2.
Sung levelled the score at 6-6, with Saina making a few error in judging the shuttle. The Korean led 8-7 after the Indian hit long and then made it 10-8 with Saina's hits going to the net and wide.
Saina, however, kept the pressure on the Korean and picked three quick points with the help of better court coverage to lead 11-10 at the interval.
After the break, a long rally and a spectacular halfsmash helped Sung to take 12-11 lead. The Korean put Saina under pressure further by swelling it to 18-12 as Saina again committed a series of unforced errors, hitting wide and long.
Saina snapped the Korean's six-point lead with a brilliant placement and then engaged in rallies to make it 15-19. But she hit long to give Sung five game points. Saina saved three but an error of judgement at the baseline helped the Korean take the second game.
Having grown in confidence after winning the second game, Sung fought tooth and nail to take a 5-3 lead in the decider. Though Saina drew parity at 5-5, the Indian found it difficult to deal with the Korean's angled shots.
Leading 9-8, Saina slipped while returning a shot at the forecourt after a long rally which helped Sung to claw back at 9-9. However, Saina held on to a 11-10 lead at the break.
After the change of sides, Saina engaged the Korean in aggressive rallies and carved out a 16-13 lead with the help of some long
smash and placements. A couple of wide shots and a mistimed return from Saina helped Sung to claw back.
The duo engaged in rallies but Saina faltered at the net, allowing Sung take a 19-17 lead. What came next was a long rally but an excellent deceptive push by Saina floored Sung in the forecourt corner and the scores were 19-19.
After that, Saina hit long and then struggled with her returns as Sung won the match and celebrated her entry into the semi-finals.
Image: Sung Ji Hyun
Photograph: Koki Nagahama/Getty Images