New Delhi : Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu advanced to the quarter-finals 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 on testing positive for Covid-19.
Sindhu defeated compatriot Ira Sharma in two games while Malvika Bansod became only the second Indian to beat former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal since 2017 in any international tournament. Ashmita Chaliha continued her strong run by beating France’s Yaelle Hoyaux to reach the quarter-finals where she was joined by compatriot Aakarshi Kashyap, No 2 seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand, third seed Yeo Jai Min of Singapore, Thailand’s sixth seed Supanida Katethong and Lauren Lam of the United States.
With men’s singles top seed Kidambi Srikanth forced to pull out along with six other players after they returned a positive test in mandatory RT-PCR tests, third seed Lakshya Sen and eighth seed HS Prannoy were the only Indian players remaining in the men’s singles draw after Sameer Verma had to withdraw with an injury.
Lakshya Sen reached the last-eight stage by beating Felix Burestedt of Sweden 21-12, 21-15 while Prannoy got a walkover from Mithun Manjunath, who too withdrew with a Covid positive test. India are assured of a place in the semi-final as Prannoy and Lakshya are slated to face-off in the quarter-finals.
Sindhu kept the home hopes alive in the women’s singles by reaching the quarter-finals with a comfortable straight games win against compatriot Ira Sharma 21-10, 21-10 in just 30 minutes in the second round.
Sindhu, 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.
The 26-year-old from Hyderabad 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 Malvika 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, the 20-year-old Malvika maintained a stronghold on the match and did not give Saina many chances. Malvika established an early lead in the first game and was cruising at 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.
Aakarshi Kashyap defeated compatriot Keyura Mopati 21-10, 21-10 while Busnan overcame Maria Ulitina of Ukraine 21-9, 21-13.
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 YONEX-SUNRISE 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 read.