The year has begun in the worst possible way for Indian badminton with Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy testing positive for the coronavirus in Thailand. The two players -- who were set to take part in the Thailand Open in Bangkok -- returned a positive test in the third round of sampling at the tournament’s biosecure bubble.
Both Prannoy and Nehwal have been isolated as per safety protocol and admitted to hospital where they would remain for the next 10 days. Nehwal’s husband, Parupalli Kashyap, who was in close contact with her, has also been asked to head to the hospital. He has been tested again and the result is awaited.
Badminton, which has been very jittery about restarting, was finally set to get things rolling with the Asian leg of the BWF tour starting in Bangkok. The Indian players were also looking forward to getting back on the court as the BWF tour resumed after a gap of 300 days. Many, including Nehwal, Kashyap and Prannoy, were looking to garner ranking points to push for qualification for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
What is disconcerting is that this is the second time in a month that Prannoy has tested positive for Covid-19. Last month, Kashyap, Prannoy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and RMV Gurusai Dutt tested positive for coronavirus after attending the latter's wedding. Nehwal had also attended the function but her test returned negative.
The players, who were asymptomatic at the time. isolated themselves at home, staying away from Gopichand Academy where they were training. A reinfection, as per experts, takes a toll on the body. So Prannoy, beyond the disappointment of missing out in Thailand, has a tricky journey ahead to get himself back to a fighting shape to get back on the world tour.
The Thailand Open began on Tuesday. Saina, who was in the same bracket as PV Sindhu, was forced to give a walkover to Malaysia’s Kisona Selvaduray. Kashyap has also been forced to forfeit his opener against Anthony Ho-Shue of Canada.
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The rest of the Indian contingent -- who were luckily not in contact with the duo who tested positive -- have been allowed to remain in the tournament. Sindhu was set to begin her campaign against Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in the first round later Tuesday.
The Indian campaign in Thailand started on a winning note with S Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa made short work of their opponents Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Widjaja in the first round of the mixed doubles competition. The Indian pair beat the World No. 8 Indonesian duo 21-11, 27-29, 21-16. The World No. 36 Indian combine was in full control through the match except in the second game which went into tie-breaker. Rankireddy-Ponnappa will next play Chang Tak Ching and NG Wing Yung of Hong Kong.
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