It was supposed 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 Japanese Eriko Hirose in the quarter-finals of the prestigious All England Badminton Championship in Birmingham.The fifth-seeded Saina, who was expected to win at the event given the absence of some top Chinese players, lost 21-11, 22-20 to her little-known Japanese rival on Friday.
The match was contested evenly to start with but Hirose, who was a semifinalist at the event once before as well, took control by breaking through the rallies that Saina generally wraps up in her favour.
Saina came back in the second game and it went neck and neck but the Indian ultimately fell short as Hirose held her nerves to clinch the issue.
With Saina's loss, India's campaign at the event ended as all her compatriots had already crashed out in previous rounds.
Meanwhile, Giant-killing Marc Zwiebler, enjoying the best week of his badminton career, booked a semi-final slot in the All England championships on Friday, beating Japan's Kazushi Yamada 21-18, 17-21, 21-15.
The German had claimed the scalp of world champion Chen Jin on Thursday and battled all the way against Yamada who had made his own piece of badminton history in the first round with a shock win over ex-Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat.
"It's amazing. I didn't expect to come so far in such a prestigious event," Zwiebler, world ranked 16, told reporters.
"I apologised to the makers yesterday for throwing my racket into the crowd after I won and now I'll have to do it again."
The German, who turns 27 on finals day on Sunday, added: "I came into this tournament with no expectations -- I hoped to perhaps reach the second round. I even had to cancel my flights for my holiday since I've got this far."
Zwiebler now meets four-times All England winner Lin Dan who eased past Vietnamese seventh seed Tien Minh Nguyen 21-17, 21-11.
It was a difficult day for Yamada and the whole of the Japanese team, who decided to continue in the tournament despite the devastating earthquake and tsunami back home.
Unseeded women's doubles pair of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa made it to the semis as did unseeded women's singles player Eriko Hirose but it was not to be for Yamada, world ranked 28.
"The team wanted to play and bring some good news for Japan," he said. "I tried my best but Zwiebler was very confident after beating the world champion."
World number one and defending champion Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia made short work of eighth seed Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand, winning 21-15, 21-7 in 30 minutes.
Fourth seed Peter Gade of Denmark, champion in 1999, had to give second best to Chinese fifth seed Chen Long who won 21-12, 21-12 and will meet Chong Wei in the semis.