New Delhi, Jan 9: In what could be termed as a severe jolt to the preparations of the season-opening India Open Super 500 tournament, ace Indian shuttler B Sai Praneeth on Sunday (January 9) pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Praneeth, who won the 2019 World Championships bronze medal, along with another shuttler Dhruv Rawat have tested positive.
"Yes, I have tested positive for COVID-19 in RT-PCR test. I had cold and cough since yesterday. I am isolating at home," Praneeth told PTI. "I will have to wait for at least a week before testing again. It is an important year and there is hardly any time to regain fitness. I hope I can get back to court quickly."
Badminton Association of India (BAI) general secretary, Ajay Singhania, too, confirmed Praneeth's withdrawal from the USD 400,000 tournament. Rawat - double's specialist - also tested positive for the virus ahead of his departure for the national capital to participate in the tournament starting on Tuesday (January 11).
"We have received the withdrawal of Sai Praneeth and Dhruv Rawat as both players have tested positive. We are strictly monitoring and it's mandatory for all players to update their RT-PCR reports before reaching New Delhi. We are also conducting tests before everyone enters the stadium," said Singhania in an official statement.
In January last year, Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy had tested positive in Thailand but were found to be negative after re-examination. Organised by the BAI, the 2022 edition of India Open will be held behind closed doors at the Indira Gandhi Stadium's KD Jadhav Indoor Hall, with the governing body laying down strict COVID-19 protocols.
"All the participating players will be taking the necessary safety precautions right from their arrival in New Delhi as per protocol and will be tested every day at the hotel and from there they will be having shuttle buses to come to the stadium, play matches and go back to the hotel again," the BAI said in a release.
"All the players as well as the tournament, match officials, BWF and BAI officials, support staff, vendors and others involved will have to go through a mandatory COVID test each day outside the stadium, and only after being tested negative they will be allowed inside the venue.
"BAI will not compromise on the safety of the players as well as others involved, and will be following all the COVID-19 guidelines given by the government."
Two-time Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen were among the Indian players who have already arrived in the national capital on Sunday.
Kidambi Srikanth is likely to arrive late in the evening, while Saina will land on Monday. Top shuttlers, including world champion Loh Kean Yew and three-time men's doubles world champion Mohammad Ahsan, had their first training session here on Sunday.
(With PTI inputs)