Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu kept the country’s flag flying at the India Open, providing some relief to the event reeling from withdrawals after seven players had to pull out for testing positive for Covid-19.
With men’s singles top seed Kidambi Srikanth forced to pull out 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.
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.
Meanwhile, India suffered another setback in men’s singles when sixth seed Sameer Verma had to withdraw from the event with an injury. Verma withdrew from the 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 had 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 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 on 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“Badminton World Federation (BWF) can confirm that seven players have been withdrawn from the India Open 2022 after testing positive for Covid-19,” the BWF said in a statement.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.