HS Prannoy and Saina Nehwal both gave it their best against higher-ranked opponents in the semi-finals of the Badminton Asia Championships but could not cross the finish line on Saturday.

Nehwal lost to top seed Tai Tzu Ying – for the ninth straight time no less – but not before putting up a valiant fight. The Indian lost 25-27, 19-21 after 45 minutes. Prannoy, earlier, showed patches of brilliance against Olympic champion Chen Long but the Chinese was at a level higher, winning 21-16, 21-18 after 52 minutes.

Nehwal was slow to get off the blocks against Tai Tzu, who raced to a 15-9 lead in the first game, when it looked like it would be another straightforward win for the former world No 1. However, a few unforced errors from Tai Tzu gave Nehwal a boost as she went ahead and won the next six points to level the scores.

It was a see-saw battle from there on, as both players had as many as four game-point opportunities before Tai Tzu finally converted one to take the lead in the match. The second game started like the first one ended, with both players going neck and neck.

It was all square till 7-7 before Tai Tzu opened up a three-point lead to make it 10-7. The Chinese Taipei player continued to hold on to her lead as the game progressed before Nehwal dug into her reserves and levelled it to 15-15. It was again a see-saw battle from there till 19-19, before Tai Tzu closed out the match.

Earlier, in the men’s singles semi, it was Prannoy who got off to a good start, opening up a 4-0 lead in the first game. The world No 10 showed some great retrieving abilities throughout the match but, unfortunately for him, unforced errors began to creep into his game and that proved to be his downfall.

Chen Long levelled it up at 5-5 and it was a good battle from there until the score reached 11-11, before the Chinese broke free and took the opening game 21-16. Chen Long began the second game on top as well and, at 8-3, it looked like he would run away with the match. However, Prannoy refused to give up and managed to level the score to 12-12.

The two players exchanged some great rallies but Prannoy just could not take a lead against the Chinese as the game wore on. Chen Long managed to maintain a narrow lead till the end and took the game and match.

It was a disappointing day for India purely on an academic basis but both Prannoy and Saina can take a lot of heart from their defeats.