Former champions PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have been handed tricky draws at the upcoming India Open Badminton tournament, starting March 24 in Delhi. Saina will be facing Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu Po in her opening round while third-seeded Sindhu will begin her campaign against Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi. However, the tournament remains under the scanner in the wake of novel coronavirus cases reported in the country. Also Read - Shoaib Akhtar Proposes India vs Pakistan Series to Raise Funds For Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic
Sindhu, who had won the tournament in 2017, is expected to face seventh seed Michelle Li of Canada in the quarterfinals of the World Tour Super 500 tournament. Meanwhile, Saina, who had claimed the title in 2015, is likely to meet eighth-seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun in the second round. Also Read - Roger Federer Starts Tennis-at-home Challenge With Pro Tips; Nominates Virat Kohli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bear Grylls For Solo Drill Video
The London Olympic bronze medallist is racing against time to qualify for her fourth straight Olympics. Also Read - Pullela Gopichand Stresses on Need to Stay Positive During Coronavirus Lockdown, Says Need to Find Ways to Maintain Physical And Mental Fitness
In men’s singles events, fifth seed Kidambi Srikanth, who is also trying to squeeze into the top 16 by April 28 deadline to make it to Tokyo, will square off against a qualifier and is expected to face compatriot Lakshya Sen, who too will open against a qualifier.
Third seed B Sai Praneeth, who is almost assured of a place in the Olympics, faces fellow Indian in HS Prannoy in the opening round.
Sameer Verma will meet Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin, Sourabh Verma takes on seventh seed Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei and Parupalli Kashyap faces Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab in the first round.
Seventh-seeded men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will open against Japan’s Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi.
However, the tournament itself seems to be in doubt with the total number of people infected by Coronavirus in India going up to 29, including two cases in Delhi. Last week, the BWF had said it has currently no plans to make any adjustments to the regulations related to the Tokyo Games qualification period.
Concerns over the rapid spread of the deadly virus have already forced the postponement of the four Olympic qualifying events so far – Lingshui China Masters (25 February 25 to 1 March), Vietnam International Challenge (24-29 March) and German Open (3 to 8 March) and Polish Open (26-29 March).
The All England Open Championships (11-15 March), the season’s first World Tour Super 1000 tournament and which counts towards qualification for Tokyo 2020, will, however, go ahead, hosts Badminton England said.
However, Next month’s Badminton Asia Championships have been moved out of Wuhan, which is the epicentre of Covid-19, to the Philippines capital Manila, which also hosted the mixed team event. It will now be held from 21-26 April.
(With PTI Inputs)