The first round of the Syed Modi International badminton tournament in Lucknow was marred by the retirement of women’s and men’s doubles top seeds and the loss of another Japanese men’s doubles pair without putting up a fight.
Women’s top seeds Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo retired while leading 5-3 against the Indian combination of Riya Gajjar and Shenan Christian with the former citing back pain.
Soon afterwards, men’s doubles top seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen of Denmark followed suit while trailing 6-1 against Chinese pairing of Ou Xuanyi and Ren Xiangyu.
Both the retirements raised eyebrows since the pairs had hardly played all out during their time on the court and there were no incident that had led to an injury during the match.
And when men’s doubles fourth seeds Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe called for the referee within few points of their match, it was clear to even the spectators that these were planned retirements.
Watanabe complained of some stomach issues but decided to complete the match after a chat with the referee but the Japanese combination hardly made any effort to win and went down 21-11, 21-9 against Russia’s Denis Grachev and Pavel Kotsarenko in just 19 minutes.
The pair then raced out of the stadium and even changed their T-shirts outside as they waited for their personally booked vehicles to take them to the airport.
While the Badminton World Federation and the organisers had no comments to make over why three of the top pairs went out in a suspicious manner, a coach explained on condition of anonymity that they had entered in the tournament as a buffer if they needed points to qualify for the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou. “With that spot either assured or out of reach and tickets already booked for India, it made more sense to come here and retire than withdraw and pay a fine,” the coach added.
The Syed Modi International and Scottish Open are the final two events for earning qualification points for the World Tour Finals and most of the spots were decided following the Hong Kong Open Super 500 last week.
Though the rankings after the Hong Kong Open would be updated on Thursday, the players would have already calculated the points and would have known that even playing the first round in Lucknow would give them enough points to qualify.