Kuala Lumpur: Saina Nehwal lost her World No 1 ranking on Saturday following her semifinal defeat against China’s Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the USD 500,000 Malaysia Open Super Series Premier badminton tournament.
Li Xuerui beat Saina 13-21, 21-17, 22-20 to reach the final where she will face the winner of Carolina Marin vs Wang Shixian match.
Before her semifinal win over the Indian, the two-time World Championship silver medallist had defeated Saina eight times, while the Indian beat her twice — once during the 2010 Singapore Open and then at 2012 Indonesia Open.
Xuerui, who had withdrawn from the BWF World Super series last year due to an injury and also skipped India Super Series last week.
On Friday, Saina Nehwal edged out China’s Sun Yu to reach the women’s singles semifinals of the tournament.
The third seeded Indian eked out a 21-11 18-21 21-17 win over Sun in a quarterfinal battle that lasted an hour and 11 minutes at the Putra Stadium here.
The Olympic bronze medallist, who had a 2-1 record going into her quarterfinal match, stamped her authority right from the start as she didn’t give the Chinese any easy points.
Brimming with confidence after her India Open triumph and ascent to World No.1, Saina zoomed ahead to 12-4 with a eight-point burst and never looked back. He grabbed the first game rather comfortably.
The World No. 15 Sun, however, made a flying start in the second game, opening up a 7-1 lead early on but Saina soon caught up with the Chinese at 14-14. Sun then slowly started to distance herself from the Indian and made a successful return to the match.
A jolted Saina recovered in no time and surged to a 11-4 lead at the break in the decider. After the interval, Sun reeled off seven straight points from 8-14 to wrest a slender lead. The duo battled till 17-17 before the Indian slammed the door on the Chinese with four points on the trot.
Saina has been on a roll ever since winning the China Open last year. She clinched the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold, reached the finals of All England Championship, before winning the India Super Series last week.