Kuala Lumpur: Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal today lost the number 1 world ranking after she faced a defeat in women's singles semi-final to reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui at the USD 500,000 Malaysia Open Superseries Premier.
The Chinese beat the third seeded Saina in a marathon match that lasted an hour and eight minutes. The top seed eventually won 13-21, 21-17, 22-20 at the Putra Stadium.
The Indian challenge in the tournament ended with Saina'a loss.
With the win, World No.3 Xuerui extended her career record to 9-2 against Saina, also ending the Indian challenge at the tournament.
Xuerui will take on reigning World Champion Carolina Marin in the final, who beat second seeded Chinese Shixian Wang 21-17, 24-22 in the other semi-final.
The newly crowned World No.1 started in perfect fashion to clinch the first game in dominating style. Though the Chinese matched Saina's shots till 6-all, the Hyderabadi stamped her authority to take flight and quickly seal the first game.
The second game was a neck-and-neck fight till 18-17, in favour of Xuerui, who held her nerve to win the last three points and push the match into the decider.
The third game was an even more hotly contested one. Saina held the advantage at 12-17 but the former World No.1 won five straight points to close the gap. Thereon, both shuttlers did not allow the other more than a point's difference.
But at 20-all, the most crucial point of the match, Xuerui showed the killer attitude to smash the next two points and enter the final.