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Malaysia Open Postponed Leaving Saina, Srikanth’s Tokyo Hopes in the Lurch

The Malaysia Open Super 750 tournament was one of two remaining Olympic qualifier events for the Tokyo Olympics. The tournament’s postponement means Saina Nehwal and K Srikanth will have to attempt to qualify for the Games via the Singapore Open in June. That though comes with its own set of protocols to negotiate.
Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth

Following the postponement of the India Open (May 11-16), Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth's qualification for the Tokyo Olympics hinged on the Kuala Lumpur tournament.

Following a surge in Covid-19 cases, the organisers have postponed the Malaysia Open Super 750 tournament, one of the last two Olympic qualifying events for badminton. The USD 600,000 event was scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 25 to 30. The decision, announced on Friday, dealt a blow to the qualifying hopes of Indian players Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth. 

"All attempts were made by the organisers and BWF (Badminton World Federation) to provide a safe tournament environment for all participants, but the recent surge in cases left no choice but to postpone the tournament," the world body said in a statement.

"BWF can confirm the rescheduled tournament will no longer take place in the Olympic qualifying window. New tournament dates will be confirmed at a later date."

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The decision is a huge setback for Saina and Srikanth’s hopes to make the cut for Tokyo. Following the postponement of the India Open (May 11-16), Saina and Srikanth's qualification for the Tokyo Games hinged on the Kuala Lumpur tournament. They can try to make it at the  Singapore Open (June 1-6), however it will be difficult for the two to travel to Singapore as the country has suspended all flights from India.

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) had earlier said that as per the laid-out guidelines, for any Indian to enter Singapore, they have to either be in quarantine in a foreign country other than India for 14 days to be allowed to enter Singapore.

"Alternatively all players have to maintain a 21 days quarantine in Singapore."

Malaysia too has banned all flights from India and BAI had been exploring alternative routes to reach there via Doha or Sri Lanka but with the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur event, efforts would now be directed towards Singapore.

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Indian shuttlers who have already made the cut for the Olympics include PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and the men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.

Besides the quartet, Srikanth, Saina and the women's doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa were supposed to participate in the two Olympic qualifiers.

(With inputs from PTI)

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