Japanese singles shuttler Minatsu Mitani lost in the semi-finals of the badminton World Championships in Denmark on Saturday to China's Li Xuerui. - AFP
COPENHAGEN: Pretty Minatsu Mitani may have bowed out in the women’s singles semi-finals of the World Championships but it could just be the start of a beautiful journey for the petite Japanese shuttler.
Although the 22-year-old Mitani lost 8-21, 14-21 to top seed Li Xuerui of China in just 31 minutes on Saturday, at least she can walk with her head held high.
En route to her first semi-finals, the pocket dynamo had seen off the challenges of defending champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and South Korean No. 1 Sung Ji-hyun in superb style.
She is only the second women’s singles player from Japan to win a bronze medal in the world meet following Hiroe Yuki’s effort in the first edition in 1977 – 37 years ago.
Mitani made heads turn after beating India’s Saina Nehwal to win the 2012 French Open title before disappearing from the radar.
This time, she is bent on being a permanent fixture in the world circuit – promising to give top players from China, South Korea and Thailand a run for their money.
“I struggled for a while but my semi-final breakthrough has given me the confidence that I need.
“It is a big achievement for me,” said a happy Mitani.
“My goal is to win a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro).”
Meanwhile, Spain’s 21-year-old left-hander Carolina Marin also did well to reach the semi-finals.
The Spaniard, who is the first from her nation to be assured of at least a medal in the world meet, takes on India’s P.V. Sindhu for a place in the final.