New Delhi: An erratic Saina Nehwal let slip the early advantage as she went down to world number one Wang Yihan in the summit clash to sign off as runner-up in the BWF season-ending World Super Series Finals in Liuzhou, China on Sunday.
The world number four, the first Indian to make the final of the prestigious event, lost 21-18, 13-21, 13-21 against the Chinese in a contest lasting over an hour.
With this win, Yihan kept her 100 per cent record against Saina intact, having now beaten her in all their four face-offs so far.
In the first game, leading 11-8, Saina failed to judge the sharp drops from Yihan who mixed her shots very well to deceive the Indian and narrow the gap.
Saina became anxious and lost a point for hitting outside before being called for a fault as Yihan made it 14-14.
With a powerful smash, Saina moved to 16-14 but a couple of weak net shots meant she allowed her rival to close the gap further 16-18.
A long rally which ended with Yihan hitting the shuttle out gave Saina a 19-16 lead. But Saina hit one out to hand the service over to Yihan and the Chinese made good use of it to narrow it down to 18-19.
Good netplay coupled with some precise cross-court shots gave Saina a game point and she made it count by pushing Yihan to yet another unforced error, stunning the home fans into silence.
There was never a dull moment in the second game too as they fought a see-saw battle and moved neck and neck. Saina's anticipation was good but Yihan's accuracy again made the India's life difficult. At 5-7, Saina involved Yihan in a long rally and earned a point with her trademark body smash.
Saina covered the court well but Yihan still managed to push the shuttle in irretrievable areas to gain points.
Saina leveled at 8-8 with a sharp drop shot which Yihan had no clue about but a couple of unforced errors by the Indian, along with some quick drops, allowed the Indian to go into the break with her nose ahead at 11-9.
A stunning rally and some brilliant retrieves helped Saina to once again level at 11-11. Yihan pinned Saina to the baseline and led 15-11 with the Indian hitting wide.
As Saina faltered with her return shots and succumbed to unforced errors, Yihan widened the lead to 18-11.
Though Saina earned two quick points but once again she hit outside to give Yihan the game point at 20-13 and the Chinese didn't waste any time to roar back into the contest at 21-13.
Back on the winning side of the court, Saina's brush with unforced errors allowed Yihan to lead 3-0. Though the Indian earned a couple of points, Yihan still led 6-3.
Yihan started dominating the proceedings and dictated the pace of the game and with a few sharp cross-court drops and angled smashes moved to 9-3.
Saina slowly gathered herself and narrowed the gap to 6-9 but with Saina losing a point at the net, the Chinese had her nose ahead at 11-7. After the break, Saina earned a point but a wide shot allowed Yihan to move to 14-8.
Unforced errors proved to be Saina's bane as Yihan earned some more points to 17-8. The Indian gained a couple of points but with her return shots finding the net, Yihan moved to 18-11 before closing it with a smash.
This is Yihan's sixth title of the year, which includes the World Championships crown. For Saina, this is her third finish as runners-up.