Top Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal failed to win her women's singles BWF Super Series Finals opener against Minatsu Mitani of Japan at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium here on Wednesday.
Despite having healthy leads several times in the match, Saina could not hold her nerves and blew away the chance of an easy win.
The World No.6 lost the three-game match of one hour and eight minutes. The Japanese girl won 21-19, 22-24, 19-21 to better her career record to 2-3 against the Indian.
The Hyderabadi got off to a superb start in the year-ending $500,000 showpiece event. From 6-7 down, Saina notched six straight points to go 12-7 in the lead. Though the Japanese World No.13 closed down the gap to 19-20 in the end, Saina managed to clinch the significant point and pocket the first game.
Saina again got off to a dream start in the second game again, taking a 7-0 lead but Minatsu slowly found her footing and levelled at 11-all. The two exchanged serves almost after every point but from 19-all, Minatsu reached gamepoint. Saina saved three gamepoints but her opponent managed to clinch the fourth one to level the match.
Like in the first two games, the World No.6 took a sizeable 12-7 lead in the decider but the World No.13 once again closed the gap to level the match at 17-17. At 19-all it could have been anyone's game but Minatsu held her nerves to win the next two points and clinch the game and match.
Saina, a 2011 finalist here, needs to win her next two Group B matches to have any hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals. The Indian faces defending champion and World No.1 Li Xuerui of China Thursday.