India Open set to begin amid positive cases and pull-outs

After the British team withdrew a couple of days earlier, B Sai Praneeth and Dhruv Rawat were also forced to withdraw late on January 9, after their Covid test results returned positive.

Published: 10th January 2022 01:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2022 01:38 AM   |  A+A-

Loh Kean Yew, the reigning men's singles world champion, trained at the venue on Sunday, Jan 9, 2022

Loh Kean Yew, the reigning men's singles world champion, trained at the venue on Sunday, Jan 9, 2022. (Photo | BAI)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The first official press conference ahead of the India Open, which was supposed to be held on Sunday afternoon, was called off at the last minute due to a delay in flights. That is the world we live in with the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic gathering steam and threatening to disrupt normal life.

Just a couple of days ago the United Kingdom team pulled out after two players tested positive before leaving for India. Late on Sunday, B Sai Praneeth and Dhruv Rawat were forced to withdraw after their Covid test results returned positive. The duo had reportedly undertaken PTPCR tests so that they can travel to Delhi.

In these unpredictable times, one thing is certain for now, the BWF Super 500 tournament is set to go ahead with some marquee Indian players like Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu among top contenders.

Srikanth has been handed the top billing in men's singles of the tournament, beginning January 11. This event also marks the start of the 2022 HSBC BWF World Tour season and the former World No 1, after a commendable showing during the World Championships last year, is determined to make the home advantage count.

"It's a long season for all of us with the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games scheduled later this year. Starting the season on home turf gives me a perfect opportunity to start the year on a winning note," Srikanth, who will begin his campaign against compatriot Siril Verma, said.

Fresh after his World Championships success, Loh Kean Yew is another big name who'll be eyeing the top prize in the $400,000 event, which is returning after a gap of more than two years. Many shuttlers, local and foreign, have started arriving at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, the place where they'll be looking to bring their A-game in the next few days.

Loh is one of the players who has reached the venue and was in action during the training session on Sunday, trying to get the feel of the conditions.

Lakshya Sen, who clinched a bronze medal during the World Championships last year, will also be intent on going all the way and stopping Loh and Srikanth.

Bearing in mind the Covid situation, the organisers have put in place safety protocols to ensure that the focus remains on the field of play. According to the organisers, all the participants will be tested every day at the hotel where they are residing and only after attaining the negative report, they'll be granted permission to enter the venue. Fans and media also won't be permitted this time.

"We have taken all possible precautions for the safety of the players and officials and we will try to engage fans through various online platforms and live broadcast on television," Ajay Singhania, BAI general secretary, said.

The fact that the fans won't be able to witness the action from close quarters is a bit of a dampener for someone like Sindhu, who's the No 1 seed in women's singles. "I have always looked forward to playing in New Delhi as India Open has always had full house crowd with a great atmosphere as winning a tournament at home is always special for any player," the 2017 edition winner said.

Apart from Sindhu, Saina Nehwal will return to action after suffering an injury that had forced her to sit out of the World Championships. She is the No 4 seed in the event and is scheduled to face Tereza Svabikova of Czech Republic in the opening round.

Besides the established names, there are some young shuttlers from the country who'll be looking to impress and add to their experience. How shuttlers like Malvika Bansod, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha (all women's singles) fare against some of the experienced campaigners could be an interesting watch.


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