New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu advanced while former winner Saina Nehwal crashed out of the India Open badminton championship that is reeling from withdrawals after seven players had to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19.
With men’s singles top seed Kidambi Srikanth forced to pull out along with six other players after they returned a positive test in RT-PCR tests conducted on Tuesday, Sindhu kept the home hopes alive by reaching the quarter-finals with a comfortable straight games win against compatriot Ira Sharma in the second round on Thursday.
There was more setback for India when women’s fourth seed Saina Nehwal was sent packing by compatriot Malvika Bansod in straight games.
Sindhu, the 26-year-old World No 7, defeated Ira Sharma 21-10, 21-10 in just 30 minutes, taking charge of both the games after initial skirmishes. The Hyderabad shuttler, who won a silver medal in Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 and followed it up by bagging a bronze in Tokyo Games in September 2021, broke away from 7-7 in the first game and surged to a 12-7 lead. She bagged five more consecutive points to take her score to 17 and went on to win the game 21-10.
Sindhu opened a 10-1 lead in the second game, winning the match with ease to set up a last-eight clash with compatriot Ashmita Chalha, who defeated Yaelle Hoyaux of France 21-17, 21-14 in the second round on Thursday. Ashmita had started her campaign in the India Open by upsetting fifth seed Evgeniyua Kosetskaya of Russia in the opening round.
Saina, who is making a comeback to the circuit after missing out on a few events towards the end of the 2021 season, found Malavika a tough nut to crack on Thursday and lost 21-17, 21-9 in a second-round encounter.
The 31-year-old from Haryana had progressed to the second round after her opponent Tereza Svabikova of the Czech Republic withdrew with an injury after losing the first game 22-20.
But on Thursday, Saina could not make a good start as the 20-year-old Malvika maintained a stronghold on the match and did not give her senior opponent many chances. Malavika established an early lead and was leading 10-6 at the midway stage.
Saina did win five consecutive points in the first game but could not catch Malvika. The second game was one-sided as Malvika opened up a lead from 2-2 onwards to make it 10-3. Though Saina reduced the margin to 7-9, Malvika could not be denied on Thursday as she widened the gap by winning five successive points and maintained her upper hand.
Meanwhile, India suffered another setback in men’s singles when sixth seed Sameer Verma had to withdraw from his match against Brian Yang of Singapore with a calf strain on Thursday.
Earlier, the tournament plunged into chaos as seven players including men’s top seed Srikanth tested positive for Covid-19 and had to withdraw from the event.
The others who tested positive for Covid-19 were doubles specialist Ashwini Ponappa, Ritika Rahul Thaker, Treesa Jolly, Mithun Manjunath, Simran Singhi, and Khushi Gupta. All have been asked to isolate themselves as per Covid-19 protocol. They will be allowed to leave New Delhi only after returning a negative RT-PCR test.
The players had undergone the RT-PCR tests on Tuesday as per the testing protocol for the event and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced the results early on Thursday morning.
“Badminton World Federation (BWF) can confirm that seven players have been withdrawn from the India Open 2022 after testing positive for Covid-19,” the BWF said in a statement.
“The players returned a positive result to a mandatory RT-PCR test conducted on Tuesday. Doubles partners deemed close contact of the seven players have also been withdrawn from the tournament. The players will not be replaced in the main draw and their opponents will be given a walkover to the next round,” the statement said.
With Sameer Verma too joining Srikanth on the sidelines, India’s hopes in men’s singles rest on third seed Lakshya Sen and eighth-ranked HS Prannoy. Prannoy got a walkover into the quarter-finals after his opponent Manjunath withdrew with a positive Covid-19 Test.