Minatsu Mitani of Japan shocked World No. 3 Saina Nehwal of India to record a sensational 21-19, 21-11 win in the 39-minute final of the French Open Super Series women’s singles in Paris late on Sunday evening.
Incidentally, Mitani created history of sorts by becoming the first Japanese woman player ever to win the French Open, which also for the first time has not featured any Chinese player in the final.
This performance also meant that Mitani denied Saina Nehwal what could have been her third straight title-triumph in Super Series this year having won the Indonesian and the Denmark editions earlier.
In a match which the top-seeded Indian shuttler was expected to be win easily by many, Mitani had different intentions. Taking time to settle down, she slowly moved her game to a different plane with an amazing display, particularly the highlight being the way she countered the acknowledged mastery of Saina at the net.
After losing the first game which went to the wire, Saina looked determined to clinch the second one starting off with a comfortable 6-3 lead. But, Mitani seemed to be destined to make history the way she played with great composure against a seasoned campaigner. Scoring the big points in long rallies, which were the feature of the final, the Japanese girl, playing in her maiden Super Series final, ensured that it turned out to be a memorable one.
In a remarkable turn-around, Mitani pulled away from Saina after trailing 9-10 to pick six straight points. And, as the game progressed, it was increasingly becoming clear that Saina’s game was going awry, with most of her returns either wide or into the net.
One point which Mitani won – a magnificent return of what looked a sure winner, a delectable drop from Saina – was perhaps symbolic of the way she could raise the level of the game when it mattered most. The cross-court smashes or the drops were too good for the Indian champion.
In the first game, the Japanese girl was in no mood to be a push-over, showing great tenacity and more importantly terrific ability to retrieve some very difficult drops and returns to the corners from the champion shuttler from India.
For someone who lost all three previous games against Saina, the World No. 26 from Japan showed great fighting qualities and quite often matched the more famous opponent, engaging in some stunning rallies and interspersing them with some telling smashes down the line. The ability of Mitani to play the cross-court returns even of the seemingly difficult drops off Saina was a treat to watch from the Japanese girl.
The Indian did have her chances to wrap up the game despite trailing 11-14 at one stage to lead subsequently at 18-16 when she came up with the big smashes. But, Mitani was more determined and kept her cool to cut down on errors and surprised the London Olympics bronze medallist from India in the first game at the net.
Earlier, Malaysia’s Daren Liew picked his maiden Super Series men’s singles title when he got the better of the 18-year-old Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 21-18, 21-17 in the 42-minute contest. Interestingly, this was the maiden Super Series final appearance for both the players.