World champion PV Sindhu will spearhead India’s challenge at the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships, beginning in Birmingham on Wednesday.
After Covid-19 testing drama, the Indians will begin their quest to recapture the trophy which has been won by just two Indians so far – the legendary Prakash Padukone (1980) and P Gopichand (2001).
The Indian badminton contingent has been cleared to participate in the All England Championships after the players, who had tested positive for Covid-19, returned negative in retests conducted by the governing body on Wednesday, reported PTI.
Three Indian shuttlers and a support staff had tested positive on Tuesday while a few were awaiting confirmation on their inconclusive samples, leaving the players without much practice ahead of the tournament.
“No positive tests in the team anyone. We are ready for All England,” wrote Mathias Boe, the former Dane shuttler who is part of the India team’s support staff, in a post on Instagram.
In an email to team managers on Wednesday, the BWF and Badminton England also informed that “following further investigations and testing, all team members have been returned to the draw having successfully retested negative.”
It also said that “following a higher-than-expected number of inconclusive and positive tests, a full investigation into the testing and laboratory process was conducted in consultation with representatives from Public Health England and the testing companies involved.
All eyes on Sindhu
After reaching her first final since Basel 2019, Sindhu suffered a comprehensive defeat against Carolina Marin at the Swiss Open Super 300 title clash.
Marin, the three-time world champion from Spain, though has pulled out of the prestigious tournament due to an injury. Also missing in action will be the Chinese, Koreans and Chinese Taipei shuttlers, who decided not to compete in the Super 1000 event which is not part of the Tokyo Olympic qualification period.
While former world number one Saina Nehwal had a runner-up finish in 2015, Sindhu’s best finish was a semifinal in 2018.
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu will again be one of the top contenders whereas Nehwal faces a tough ask starting with a tough first-round fixture.
Among other Indians, former number one Kidambi Srikanth and young men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, currently ranked 10 in the world, had a good run in Swiss Open and will look to build momentum.
Fifth seed Sindhu will kick off her campaign with a clash against Malaysia’s Soniia Cheah and is likely to face Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinals.
London Olympics bronze medallist Nehwal has drawn in-form seventh seed Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in her first round and might meet Scotland’s Kristy Gilmour next.
In mens singles, Srikanth will open against Nhat Nguyen instead of the experienced campaigner Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia. World championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth will take on France’s Toma Junior Popov and is likely to clash next with second seed Viktor Axelsen, who has won the two Super 1000 titles in Thailand, and the Swiss Open.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap will open against world No 1 Japanese Kento Momota, who is returning to international circuit after a horrific car accident last year that saw him undergo an eye surgery. He was also laid low earlier this year after contracting Covid-19.
In men’s doubles, Satwik and Chirag will open against Nikhar Garg and Aniruddha Mayekar (an Indo-English combo), while mixed doubles pair of Satwik and Ashwini Ponnappa will square off against Japanese combo of Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsutomo.
Young men’s pairing of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila will face Malaysian pair of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi.
Here’s a full list of opening day matches:
India's match on day at All England
|MS||Ygor COELHO||Sameer VERMA||Court 3|
|MS||SAI PRANEETH B.||Toma Junior POPOV||Court 5|
|WD||Chloe BIRCH  Lauren SMITH||Ashwini BHAT K. Shikha GAUTAM||Court 1|
|WS||PUSARLA V. Sindhu ||Soniia CHEAH||Court 1|
|WS||Saina NEHWAL||Mia BLICHFELDT ||Court 1|
|XD||Rasmus ESPERSEN Christine BUSCH||Pranaav Jerry CHOPRA REDDY N. Sikki||Court 2|
|XD|| Praveen JORDAN Melati Daeva OKTAVIANTI|
|Dhruv KAPILA JAKKAMPUDI Meghana||Court 4|
|MD||M.R. ARJUN Dhruv KAPILA||ONG Yew Sin TEO Ee Yi||Court 2|
|MS||Kento MOMOTA ||PARUPALLI Kashyap||Court 1|
|MS||LIEW Daren||PRANNOY H. S.||Court 2|
|MD|| Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY |
| Nikhar GARG |
|MS||Lakshya SEN||Kantaphon WANGCHAROEN||Court 4|
|MS||KIDAMBI Srikanth ||Nhat NGUYEN||Court 2|
|WD||Benyapa AIMSAARD Nuntakarn AIMSAARD||Ashwini PONNAPPA REDDY N. Sikki||Court 3|
|WD||Alexandra BØJE Mette POULSEN|| JAKKAMPUDI Meghana|
Poorvisha S RAM
|XD||Yuki KANEKO Misaki MATSUTOMO|| Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY |
You can find full list of Indian participants here.
The tournament is telecast live in India on the Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar VIP