Hyderabad:Saina Nehwal failed to produce her vintage form of recent years as the Indian ace suffered a shock defeat to lower-ranked Malaysian Julia Pei Xian Wong in the quarter-finals to crash out of the Yonex Sunrise Indian Open in Hyderabad on Friday.
Second-seeded Saina lost 21-12, 13-21, 18-21 to fifth-seed Julia, against whom she had won three times in four encounters, to bring the curtains down on India's singles campaign at the Grand Prix Gold event.
However, the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Valiyaveetil Diju kept the Indian flag flying with a 21-13, 21-13 win over Chinese pair of Tao Jiaming and Xiaoli Wang to move into the semi-finals.
Some judgmental errors and mistakes put paid to world number nine Saina's hopes of winning the title in front of her home crowd.
The Indian was put on the back foot right from the start as her Malaysian rival opened up a 4-0 lead. But Saina came back strongly to draw level at 6-6 and then grabbed the lead at 10-13. The Malaysian pocketed two more points but Saina soon raced away, winning the game 21-12.
But the next game saw the balance swing in favour of Julia as the world number 15 cruised to a 9-1 lead and though Saina managed to win some crucial points, the Malaysian walked away with the second game 21-13.
Tied one all, the third game witnessed a seesaw battle as the duo moved neck and neck from 6-6 to 14-14. But Saina was soon left to do some catching up as Julia opened up the court and involved in soft net play.
The home favourite put up a brave fight and narrowed the gap to 19-18 but the Malaysian had the last laugh. Saina was done in by the drift which she struggled to gauge for most part of the tie. She also had a couple of backhand smashes not going her way.
"I started off well but I lost it on the way. In the second and third games I committed a lot of errors. I scored points in between, came back in the match but she was playing too well," said Saina.
"I was also not playing well from the nets and I made some judgmental errors," a disappointed Saina said. While Saina sank in agony, Jwala and Diju rose to ecstasy as they thumped the Chinese pair convincingly to reach the semi-finals. They will next meet Jien Guo Ong and Sook Chin Chong of Malaysia, who beat Indonesian pair Muhammad Rijal and Debby Susanto 21-19, 21-19 in the other quarter-final.
"We were on the offensive right from the start and defended well too. They couldn't read our game and we didn't allow them to get into the rhythm," Jwala said.
"We are not thinking too far, we just want to play well and enjoy without being bothered about the result. There is absolutely no pressure on us," she added.
"The left-right combination is working very well for us but we have to build our consistency level. We are aiming to break into the top-10 by this year.
"There is drift in the air but it is same for all so I don't think anybody should complain. We have to adjust and play," Jwala said.
Diju was effusive in his praise for his partner. "Jwala was doing all the job and I just supported her. In the beginning last year I wasn't very confident but now as we are playing more and more Super Series and Grand Prix, we feel confident now," Diju said.