Olympic champion Carolina Marin and World No. 1 Kento Momota will headline a star-studded field of international shuttlers when the India Open Super 500 event is held here from May 11 to 16, albeit behind closed doors due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The USD 400,000 tournament, one of the last few qualification events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, has attracted 228 (114 men and 114 women) entries from 33 different national associations, including China.
However, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) said “due to the rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in the country, the tournament will be contested in a bio-secure bubble without spectators and media while implementing strict COVID-19 safety protocols." “All the players and officials coming from South Africa, Brazil, Middle East and European countries including UK will be serving a 7-day quarantine period and have to report in the capital city on May 3," BAI said in a release.
“… Players and officials from rest of the world can arrive on May 6 and undergo a 4-day quarantine period." On the court, three-time world champion Marin will lead the women’s singles category along with other Top-10 shuttlers such as Akane Yamaguchi, 2019 world champion PV Sindhu, Korea’s An Se-Young and Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong.
India boasts of the largest contingent with 48 players (27 women and 21 men), while Malaysia has fielded the second biggest squad with 26 shuttlers, which includes 10 women and 16 men. A total of 10 shuttlers (4 women and 6 men) from China are also part of the participants list.
Among the men, two-time world champion Momota, defending champion Viktor Axelson, Anders Antonsen and reigning All England Open champion Zii Jia Lee will be in the fray. Former World No. 1 Srikanth Kidambi will lead the Indian charge along with B Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy and Parupalli Kashyap.
India’s men’s doubles challenge will be spearheaded by World No. 10 pairing of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, while Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will aim for some valuable Olympic qualification points in the women’s doubles. Ponnappa will also partner Satwik in the mixed doubles category which sees the Japanese pair of Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino leading the list of six Top-10 combinations in fray.
The last date for withdrawal of entry is April 19 while the draw will be announced on April 20. The governing body said “Delhi Government will conduct RT-PCR test on arrival on May 3 and 6 as well as on May 9 and 14.
“We are really happy to finally be able resume badminton action. But with the recent spike in cases, we have to be more cautious," BAI general secretary of BAI Ajay Singhania said. “We understand spectators have been an integral part of our growth story but this year despite it being an Olympic qualifier and an array of star shuttlers in action, we have to take the decision of conducting the tournament in a bio bubble." .