Paris: Fresh from her maiden Denmark Open title triumph, India ace Saina Nehwal started her French Open Super Series campaign in style, registering a hard-fought win over China's Li Han in women's singles event on Wednesday.
Top seeded Indian saw off her opponent 21-11 16-21 21-19 in a battle that lasted an hour.
The 22-year-old Saina will take on Thailand's Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the second round.
There was little to differentiate between Saina and Li Han in today's match but the Indian turned out to be better as far as the smash winners were concerned. She recorded 10 smash winners in comparison to just five, hit by her opponent.
Both Saina and Li started off well in the first game but the former always managed to maintain a slight lead before she opened up with a huge 17-10 margin. The Hyderabadi girl then comfortably wrapped up the game 21-11.
The Chinese, however, gathered her composure in the second game and straight away surged ahead with a 6-1 lead. Although, Saina could bridge the gap, fighting her way to 15-18, Li Han raced away to seal it 21-16.
In the decider, none of the shuttlers spared each other an inch and at one stage both were locked at 19-19 before Saina kept her nerves to win two straight points and walk away with the match.
Earlier, Sourabh Varma crashed out in the first round with a 20-22 16-21 loss to Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the men's singles.
In mixed doubles also, the Indian combo of Tarun Kona and Ashwini Ponnappa lost their first round match to Thai pair of Patiphat Chalardchaleam and Savitree Amitrapai 18-21 15-21.