Saina Nehwal's quest to become the first Indian world champion in badminton ended in heartbreak as she lost in straight games to title holder Carolina Marin in the summit showdown of the World Badminton Championships in Jakarta on Sunday.
The World No 2 Indian went down 16-21, 19-21 to her nemesis in a match which lasted 59 minutes.
It was the second successive loss in a major final for Saina after she lost to the Spaniard in the All England Championships final earlier this year.
Saina is now the first Indian badminton player to win a silver medal at the World Championships.
This is India’s fifth medal at the World Championships following P V Sindhu's bronze in 2013 and 2014 and Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa bronze in women’s doubles at the 2011 edition.
Legendary shuttler Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a bronze at the 1983 edition.
This is also the first time since 1983 that no Chinese player has won a medal at the World tournament.
With a 3-1 head-to-head record over the Spaniard going into the match, Saina had the edge on paper, but the gritty southpaw, who got the better of Saina in the All England finals in their most recent encounter, seemed more pumped up when the proceedings started.
Clenching her fists and letting out a scream at almost every point won by her, Marin caught the chair umpire's attention more than once for her antics and was even cautioned for abusing her racquet.
However, the World No 1 made sure that the scorecard ticked in her favour after breaking away from 7-7 when Saina sunk an easy return into the net.
Placed comfortably at 11-8 at the lemon break, Marin made it 15-9 in no time after some precisely-placed shots from the baseline and errors by Saina.
Marin had been under an injury cloud in the build up to the championships but twice relied on her ability to quickly string together points at crucial times to rally from behind in both games and secure victory in 56 minutes.
"I didn't think I would be here when I was struggling with my injuries but my coaches said I should keep training and try to play at the world championships and just do the best I could in the tournament," Marin said.
"I knew from the beginning it was going to be a very tough match because Saina is really good but I kept fighting until the end and am very happy with my performance today."
The beleaguered Indian found it tough to deal with her rival's energy and floundered when challenged on pace.
In fact, the fierce smashes, which are a hallmark of Saina's game, came from Marin's racquet, the most impressive being the one with which she earned her first game point.
Down 13-20, Saina held on for a few points before Marin closed out the first game when the Indian hit one wide after 24 minutes.
In the second game, however, the Indian started strongly, inducing regular errors from the aggressive Spaniard. The Indian led 11-6 at the break, riding on a much improved performance in baseline rallies.
Refusing to be bogged down, Marin, who was far more adventurous than the Indian when it came to approaching the net, recovered with six back-to-points to make it 12-12.
Moving around the court with lightening pace, the Spaniard quite literally tired the Indian with her unrelenting returns, targetting Saina's body with stunning precision.
But it was no stroll in the park for the World No 1 as her Indian challenged held on for some engrossing rallies in a battle of attrition.
Locked at 17-17, while Marin looked consistently fired up, Saina's body language did not seem very positive and her rival took a 20-18 lead to inch towards her second successive world title.
The inevitable was delayed when Carolina squandered the first Championship point before clinching the second and collapsing on to the floor in sheer joy and relief.
Later, China's Chen Long produced a fitting display for a top seed and defending champion to claim a second straight world title with a pulsating 21-14, 21-17 victory against Malaysian nearly-man Lee Chong Wei on Sunday.
Lee has topped the world rankings for a record 298 weeks during a long and illustrious career but once again came up short against a Chinese player at the top of his game in a fourth world championship final defeat in as many matches.
Chen has replaced Lin Dan as the top male player following his breakthrough world title triumph a year ago and the rangy 26-year-old has also replaced his compatriot as Lee's arch nemesis after repeating last year's win over the Malaysian.
Lin has beaten Lee in four major finals, including the last two Olympics, but Chen has emerged from the shadow of a player many believe to be the greatest ever with a complete game built on his supreme agility, speed, power and fitness.
At 1.87 metres, Chen also boasts a court-covering reach and used all of his attributes to rein in the fast-starting Lee, realising he was dominating when he attacked and coming off second best in the tactical rallies.
Once he took the lead at 11-10, Chen looked unstoppable and reeled off 16-of-20 points to claim the opening game before storming out of the blocks in the second to forge a six-point lead by the interval.
Lee battled gamely as Chen's intensity levels dropped but the Malaysian was unable to get any closer than within two points of his opponent in the second game as a packed Istora Senayan roared in approval.
"Lee is a good player but I was better today," Chen said in a courtside interview. "This is a very special arena, so it feels great to win the world title here."
Earlier, top seeds Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei stormed to a third mixed doubles world title with a comfortable 21-17 21-11 victory over compatriots and former junior world champions Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin.