HONG KONG (AFP) - World No. 1 Carolina Marin's season-long Superseries drought continued on Saturday, after the Olympic gold medallist was felled by Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying during their Hong Kong Open semi-final.
The women's singles defending champion appeared nothing short of unstoppable all week, powering through opponents with whipping overheads and slicing drop shots along with healthy servings of her signature shrieks.
But the tournament top seed failed to maintain a rhythm over the three-game semi-final as frustration mounted, while Tai remained cool and resilient during the longer rallies in her 21-17, 14-21, 21-16 win.
"I'm really disappointed with the game today," said the Spaniard, who won the Olympic gold and European championship this summer but has failed to clinch a Superseries title in 2016.
"It's been a long season and I've been very tired."
The rivals battled shot-for-shot in the opening game with Tai gradually seizing the momentum as Marin struggled to find form, before the two-time world champion powered back in the second.
But the final game saw Tai rally with the Hong Kong crowd firmly in her corner as the Spaniard struggled to keep the shuttlecock in play.
"The crowd supported me a lot," said Tai, who knocked out Marin during the quarter-finals of the China Open last week.
"Every time I scored they would shout. I felt very motivated and supported."
Third-ranked Tai, the fourth seed here, is aiming to capture her second Superseries title this season, after grabbing the Indonesia Open in June, and will square off with the winner of the semi-final between Indian P.V. Sindhu, the Olympic runner-up, and local player Cheung Ngan Yi.
In the men's doubles, Japan's Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda, the unseeded world No. 10 pair, upset Chinese second seeds Chai Biao and Hong Wei 21-15, 19-21, 21-17.