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Next few weeks 'challenging' as India Open withdrawal list in singles rises to 13

Just a few days ago, BAI had officially announced that the tournament will be held behind closed doors without the spectators from May 11-16.

Published: 17th April 2021 12:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2021 12:41 AM   |  A+A-

Badminton

For representational purposes (Photo | AP)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: As Delhi reported 19,486 new positive coronavirus cases and 141 deaths on Friday, the severity of the situation wasn't lost to the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Badminton Association of India (BAI). Both bodies told this daily that they're closely monitoring the situation. This development comes hot on the heels of as many as 13 singles players including Carolina Marin withdrawing (as on
April 16).

In order to curb the alarming coronavirus cases, Delhi, the host city, is currently under weekend curfew. Both BAI and BWF are hopeful that the curfew will brings its desired effect. "The BAI has been proactive and monitoring the situation. They are looking at curfews in New Delhi. If that helps in keeping the
surge in check that could be a good sign. We'll have a meeting after that," Ajay Singhania, BAI general secretary, told this daily.

Acknowledging that they're aware of the spike in cases, BWF is confident that the measures put in place will ensure the safety of players who'll be participating. "The BWF is in close communication and consultation with the Badminton Association of India (BAI), as well as local health authorities in Delhi, as to the protocols and requirements needed for a safe staging of the India Open 2021. We are aware of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in India but have full confidence that the measures put in place will protect the safety of all players and participants," Thomas Lund, BWF secretary general, told this daily.

Just a few days ago, BAI had officially announced that the tournament will be held behind closed doors without the spectators from May 11-16. Since then, the pandemic situation has just gotten worse, with India, with over two lakh cases, shattering records on Wednesday and Thursday. Singhania admitted that the next few weeks will be a real challenge. "We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the tournament goes ahead as per plan. But there's so much uncertainty now. It will all depend upon the government, the health ministry, the sports ministry. We are constantly in touch with them. It will be a big
challenge."

Marin, who was seeded No 1 in the women's singles category, confirmed her withdrawal on Thursday, according to the BWF. Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon, who was No 3 seed, is another marquee player who'll be giving the event a miss. "Carolina Marin has already qualified for the Olympics. They are aware that the pandemic is getting bad day by day. For all the players, health is a priority. She could also have had a personal problem. So you never know," Singhania opined.

In the men's singles, Denmark duo of Anders Antonsen and Rasmus Gemke, who were seeded third and sixth, respectively, have confirmed their withdrawal. World No 29 Mark Caljouw of Netherlands has also opted to skip the event. The withdrawal deadline is April 19 and it won't be a surprise if more shuttlers decide against coming. The draw is scheduled to be held a day later. If the tournament goes ahead per plans, it will be a great chance for Indians like Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal to garner crucial Olympic qualification points.



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