Saina Nehwal's poor form in the international arena continued as she lost to Japan's Minatsu Mitani 21-19 22-24 19-21 in a hard-fought three-game battle in her opening match of the BWF Superseries Finals here on Wednesday.
World No 6 Saina, who struggled with injuries this season, fought for 68 minutes before her Japanese rival got better of her.
Saina has been clubbed in Group B along with world No 1 and Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China, world No 7 Yeon Ju Bae of Korea, besides world No 13 Mitani during the year-end tournament, which is being fought among top eight performers from the 12-event Super Series circuit.
Top two players from Group A and B will advance to the semifinals. The winner of Group A will play against the runner-up of Group B, while the winner of Group B take on the runner-up of Group A in the semifinals for places in the final.
Saina began well, pocketing the first game 21-19. However, in the second, the Japanese reduced the Indian's 7-0 lead to 7-5 in a matter of minutes. Thereafter, it was a neck-and-neck battle and finally it was Mitani who took the match to the decider. In the final game, Mitani closed out the match with couple of winners.