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Japanese car-makers love tweaking bonnet designs since the hood's what comes first-up. In the feathery world of badminton, it's the serve, that they fiddle with the most. Saina Nehwal deals routinely with the Chinese Juggernaut — variants of long rallies, great court coverage and roaring smashes, but seldom tamperers of the sacrosanct, no-nonsense serve. In Minatsu Mitani in the French Open final, she ran into a Japanese whose serve would have added to her mental aggravation.
Mitani served with an offbeat action, a convoluted racquet grip and swing which ends up looking like a top-spin, though the shuttle is intended always to go very high up. Nehwal's predecessor Aparna Popat says the Japanese have been at it — awkward serving styles — for a long time, and though it's not some mind-boggling strategy formulated in shuttle's Einstein lab, the serve which is not at all smooth and looks like it's coming in mini-breaks can cause an almighty irritation for any opponent.
In women's tennis, they innovated the double-fisted strokes on both flanks to compensate for low power, that has served Kimiko Date Krum well into her 40th year!
The service in badminton, unlike tennis, is primarily a defensive stroke, the Japanese slip in some deception. Served unusually high and hit hard, it often bought Mitani unseen advantage with the violent drift at the Stade Pierre De Coubertin courts. The high serve also takes some adjusting to, if lights are in the eyes. Mitani's clever placement of the shuttle along with Nehwal's own weariness after 10 matches resulted in her unexpected loss against the World No 21, but the serve played the clever side kick in Mitani's ingenious villainy.
Shivani is special correspondent based in Mumbai
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