Saina Nehwal watched in bewilderment as Wang Lin smashed her net-lift with remarkable swiftness to end the Indian's run in the quarterfinal of the World Badminton Championship on Friday.
The packed Gachibowli Stadium went silent for a minute before the pocket occupied by the Chinese contingent erupted in joy. Saina's 21-16, 21-19 loss also ended India's challenge in the tournament after the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju had earlier surrendered meekly to defending champions Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir.
With just Saina left in the draw, the Indian supporters had begun exercising their vocal chords even before the 20-year-old had taken the court in the day's last encounter. The spectators were hoping for a repeat of the Indonesia Super Series final where the Indian had upset the world number two after losing the first game. But the local lass was slow off the blocks as Lin dominated the net exchanges and made Saina pay for the sluggish start as she raced to a 8-1 lead.
Saina changed her game plan and began keeping the shuttle down. The trick worked as the Indian caught up at 11-11 before Lin against stepped up the pace using half-smashes and flat tosses to unsettle the Indian and take the opening game.
The Indian raised hopes of a comeback after the change of ends as she raced to a 10-2 lead with Lin looking lost at that juncture.
But a lapse in concentration handed the Chinese three easy points and the world number 2 took the next five with her trademark attack.
Saina never recovered from the setback and, in the effort to play safe, lost the plot. "Unlike our last meeting, she was very good at the net. Instead of just lifting from the net, she was pushing very well and I had no answer to that," admitted Saina after the match.
Lin would now take on seventh seed Lu Lan, while two-time champion Xie Xingfang will meet Frenchwoman of Chinese-origin, Pi Hongyan in the semifinals.
Jwala-Diju bow out
Jwala and Diju put in a below par performance and went down to defending champions Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir 21-16, 21-14.