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Syed Modi International 2018: Injury-enforced retirements and defeats of top-seeded doubles pairs raise eyebrows

Lucknow: Apart from easy wins for seeds and a handful of early big guns being ousted, the first round of the Syed Modi International 2018 saw the surprise retirement of women’s and men’s doubles top seeds, and the defeat of the Japanese men’s doubles pair, who looked disinterested throughout the match.

Japan’s top pair of Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo retired while leading 5-3 against the unseeded Indian combination of Riya Gajjar and Shenan Christian with Takahashi citing sudden lower back pain. Strangely, she had shown no signs of discomfort until that stage.

 Syed Modi International 2018: Injury-enforced retirements and defeats of top-seeded doubles pairs raise eyebrows

Misaki Matsutomo (R) and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan. AFP

There was a huge cheer for men’s doubles fourth seeds Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe as they entered the court. However, the fans could sense another withdrawal when Watanabe complained to the referee about stomach pain. While the pair persisted, a plethora of reckless shots at the net meant they crashed out with a shocking 21-11, 21-9 defeat against the unseeded Russian pairing of Denis Grachev and Pavel Kotsarenko in just 19 minutes.

The way the two pairs ended their stint at the Lucknow tournament raised a few eyebrows, particularly because both had not made the cut for the prestigious World Tour Finals in Guangzhou. In fact, both needed only a handful of points to seal entry into the season-ending event, points which could have been gathered simply by making a first round appearance at the Syed Modi Open.

The day also saw the retirement of men’s doubles top seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen of Denmark after trailing 1-6 against the Chinese pairing of Ou Xuanyi and Ren Xiangyu. The only difference here was that the Danish duo had already qualified for the Guangzhou event.

So, why did they come all the way to Lucknow?

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) officials and the tournament organisers present in Lucknow for the tournament refrained from making any statements about the manner in which some of the top pairs had ended their campaign.

However, a coach, who requested not to be named, explained that the pair had only participated in the World Tour 300 event as a buffer in case they needed points to qualify for the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou this late in the day. But having secured qualification comfortably before the Syed Modi event, pulling out of the tournament would have invited a monetary penalty. “With a spot (at the World Tour Finals) either assured or out of reach and tickets already booked for India, it made more sense to come here and retire than withdraw and pay a fine,” he said.

It must be noted here that the World Tour Rankings and the World Rankings are two different lists.

In order to qualify for the World Tour Finals, a shuttler or a pair needs to earn maximum points at World Tour events played throughout the year. The total points earned are calculated at the end of the last World Tour event of the year. Only the top eight players listed on the World Tour Rankings or “HSBC Race to Guangzhou” — a ranking for World Tour tournaments including Super 100 events — qualify for the season-ending Finals.

For the top guns fighting for a place in the season-ending Finals, participating in the final two events — Syed Modi International and Scottish Open — was the only way to earn some much-needed qualification points for the World Tour Finals. Most of the spots were cemented after the Hong Kong Open Super 500 results last week. The players calculated the points before jetting off for Lucknow and needed only the first-round points to qualify. The World Tour Rankings have been updated on the BWF official website and all the three pairs have sealed a spot in the World Tour Finals.

Danish men’s singles shuttler Hans-Kristian Vittinghus said that he was all in for changing the withdrawal penalty and World Tour qualifying rules after watching how the top pairs used the first-round points to qualify for the Guangzhou event.

“I prefer that the top 8 in the World Rankings at the end of November qualifies. I want to see the best players there and those 8 are the ones who were the best in the past 12 months. And if they want to keep current system where only World Tour tournaments (and tour 100) counts, I’d prefer they changed it to only best 12-15 events count and then include world championships and eligible points,” he wrote in a reply to his own tweet on Wednesday.


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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 17:07:47 IST