All England Open 2021: 'No gym, no practice for two days,' tweets Saina Nehwal day ahead of opener
With just a day remaining for the start of the main round of the All England Championships, Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal took to social media to express her dismay at being kept quarantined in her hotel room in Birmingham for over two days
With just a day remaining for the start of the main round of the All England Championships, Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal took to social media to express her dismay at being kept quarantined in her hotel room in Birmingham for over two days with the status of her COVID-19 test not being revealed.
“Ok I have to do this now ! Matches are starting tomorrow at the @YonexAllEngland and still no reports of the Covid test done 30hrs before . No practice , no gym .. for 2 days now . @bwfmedia (sic),” she tweeted.
— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) March 16, 2021
Saina will open her campaign against seventh-seeded Danish shuttler Mia Blichfeldt.
Given the situation of coronavirus in the United Kingdom — over 40,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week — the players coming from abroad were required to quarantine before the tournament starts on Wednesday. This year, there is no qualifying given the COVID-19 restrictions.
Besides Saina, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap, HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Lakshya Sen are also part of India’s singles contingent while doubles players Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra, MR Arjun, Dhruv Kapila, Jakkampudi Meghana, Poorvisha S Ram, Ashwini Bhat K, and Shikha Gautam will also be in action at the prestigious tournament.
Parupalli Kashyap, who will face World No 1 Kento Momota in the first round, also tweeted his frustrations, calling the testing protocols 'beyond absurd' and 'ridiculous.'
— Parupalli Kashyap (@parupallik) March 16, 2021
The tournament is not offering points in the Road to Tokyo rankings, which has led to shuttlers from China, South Korea and the Chinese Taipei to give the Super 1000 event a miss. Olympic champion Carolina Marin also pulled out of the tournament citing injury. However, points earned at the All England will count for the World Tour Finals 2021, to be held at Guangzhou, China, later this year.
COVID-19 protocol confusion
COVID-19 testing protocols at badminton tournaments have come under the scanner this year, particularly after Saina and HS Prannoy tested positive ahead of the YONEX Thailand Open in January this year, but were later cleared to compete the same day.
Nehwal and Prannoy needed to be taken to a hospital while Nehwal’s husband Kashyap was also asked to self-quarantine due to him sharing a room with Saina. The players then underwent a second PCR test and an antibody blood test for further confirmation.
BREAKING @NSaina @PRANNOYHSPRI and Jones Ralfy Jansen have been cleared to resume their place in the YONEX Thailand Open. They tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG was positive. Read more #HSBCbadminton #BWFWorldTourhttps://t.co/Rc8rt3uWLR
— BWF (@bwfmedia) January 12, 2021
It turned out that Nehwal and Prannoy had tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG was positive as well. (A positive antibody test means a person has been infected with the COVID-19 virus at some point in the past. It does not mean they are currently infected). Nehwal and Prannoy had contracted COVID-19 in late 2020.
While initially Nehwal and Kashyap’s singles matches had been declared a walkover in favour of their opponent’s, they were rescheduled for the next day after they were cleared by the Diagnosis and Investigation Committee of the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, which was a working group of six doctors that has been formed just for this tournament.
The commission, the key Australian government agency responsible for supporting and investing in sport, apologised in the wake of the independent report this week that detailed a culture that tolerated emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
Axelsen returned a first positive test after beating Finn Kalle Koljonen in the semi-finals on Saturday and must isolate in Kiev. He was to face fellow Dane Anders Antonsen, who claimed his first European title with a walkover.
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that has a day off during the fortnight but this provides scheduling challenges, particularly when there is bad weather in the first week.