Olympics Bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal failed to clinch back-to-back title as she suffered a shock straight-game defeat to Japanese Minatsu Mitani in the summit clash of the French Open Super Series here today. Playing her second final in two weeks, world number three Saina could not live upto expectations against 21-year-old Minatsu and lost 19-21 11-21 in the 39-minute women’s singles final. Saina, who won the Denmark Super Series Premier title last week, was tested only for the second time in the tournament by world number 26 Minatsu, who rode on her superior court coverage and accurate strokes to clinch her first Super Series title.
Minatsu, who jumped a couple of places in world rankings on Thursday, matched Saina with her brilliant net play and smashes and engaged the Indian in long rallies. She was also good in her defense as she retrieved everything thrown at her. Saina started off well and initially opened up a narrow 6-3 lead but Minatsu slowly built her game and moved from 7-7 to 16-16 to keep breathing down the Indian’s neck. The 22-year-old from Hyderabad picked up a couple of points to move to 18-16 but the Japanese reeled off four straight points from 17-19 to to win the first game. In the second game, Saina tried to exploit Minatsu’s weakness at the fore court and played some angled shots to move to 5-2.
But Minatsu engaged Saina in long rallies and used her drops and cross court smashes to catch up with the Indian, before moving into the break at 11-10 with yet another brilliant smash. She grabbed four more quick points to move to 15-10. Minatsu made Saina move around the court by mixing her shots, while the Indian faltered with her accuracy and lost a few points hitting wide or due to misjudgement. In no time, Minatsu zoomed to match point at 20-11 and with Saina finding the net, it was all over for the Indian.
Road to Final
World No 3 Saina Nehwal defeated Germany’s Juliane Schenk 21-19, 21-8 to reach the final of the French Open Super Series badminton championship here yesterday. The ace Hyderabadi shuttler, who is looking to win her third Super Series title of the year, will face Minatsu Mitani of Japan in the final today. (The match will be telecast live on Neo Sports channel in the evening.) Minatsu beat her compatriot Eriko Hirose 21-19, 21-10 in the other semi-final. In a repeat of the Denmark Open final that was played at Odense on Oct 21, Saina trailed 0-3 at the start before she cut down on her errors to make it 6-all. Though the fourth seed subsequently took a 15-10 lead, the London Olympics bronze medallist won six of the next seven points to level the scores. At this juncture, the chair umpire accepted Juliane’s repeated requests to test the speed of the shuttle. Saina’s concentration was apparently affected by the interruption and she allowed the German to move to 19-16. However, the top seed reeled off five points in a row to clinch the first game.
The 22-year-old continued the momentum by bagging the first eight points in the second game. Juliane tried her best to stay within touch but Saina was just too good. At match point, Juliane could not control her shot and thus lost to the Indian for the second time in six days. Saina Nehwal reaches French Open Super Series semi-final Top seed Saina Nehwal drew from her reservoir of experience to enter the French Open semifinal after a straight-game win over Thai teen Ratchanok Intanon in the semifinal here.
The world number-3 Indian won 22-20 22-20 in a 42-minute clash during which she was given some anxious moments by the 17-year-old Thai, who is ranked 10th in the international list and seeded seventh in the event. Saina, fresh from her Denmark Open triumph last week, will now be up against fourth-seeded German Juliane Schenk, who powered past upcoming Chinese player Chen Xiao Jia 21-10 21-14.
It will be a replay of the Denmark Open final in which London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina had merged triumphant to clinch her second Super series Premier title. In yesterday’s match, Saina started well, taking an 11-7 lead in the first game but Intanon came back strongly to make it 20-20 before the Indian managed to clinch it with her eighth trademark smash of the game. The second game followed a similar script as Intanon tested Saina with her fine strokeplay. But the 22-year-old Hyderabadi drew from experience to come out triumphant and inch closaer to her third Super Series title this year.
News source: Indian Express