Saina Nehwal was a surprise loser in the French Open final on Sunday, failing to get past the defensive guile of Minatsu Mitani of Japan. The 21-19 21-11 loss was her first in five finals this year.
Going into the final, the Indian was favourite as she had beaten the Japanese in the second round of last week’s Denmark Open. The world No.3 controlled the early part of the first game, but the Japanese girl’s rock-solid defence ensured the Indian was dragged into longer rallies than she would have expected. Saina recovered from a 11-14 deficit to go ahead at 19-17. Just when it looked like the Indian had done enough to take the first game, she played three loose shots, ending with a service return that went long.
The second game was a washout. Saina has probably never fallen in this fashion, but perhaps the efforts of the last two weeks have taken their toll. Saina led 7-3 but once Mitani caught up at 10, she reeled off a succession of points to take the match 21-19 21-11. In the process, Mitani girl created history, as she became the first Japanese woman to win a Superseries title.