New Delhi [India], April 13 (ANI): Rio Olympics champion Carolina Marin and World No.1 Kento Momota spearhead the list of top international entries at the much-anticipated India Open 2021 which will be conducted behind closed doors at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi from May 11-16.
The tournament, which is also an Olympic qualifier event, has attracted 228 (114 men and 114 women) entries from 33 different national associations including China. The prestigious annual tournament, classified as BWF World Tour Super 500 event, is one of the last few qualification events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and will witness some exciting action.
However, due to the rapidly rising covid cases in the country, the tournament will be contested in a biosecure bubble without spectators and media while implementing strict COVID-19 safety protocols. All the players and officials coming from South Africa, Brazil, Middle East and European countries including the UK will be serving a 7-day quarantine period and have to report in the capital city on May 3 while players and officials from the rest of the world can arrive on May 6 and undergo a 4-day quarantine period.
Delhi Government will conduct RT-PCR test on arrival on May 3 and 6 as well as on May 9 and 14. Badminton Association of India (BAI) will provide one additional meal of choice for all participants, officials, and support staff members during the quarantine period.
"We are really happy to finally be able to resume badminton action and host such top shuttlers from across the world. But with the recent spike in cases, we have to be more cautious. Players' safety has always been of prime importance and our top priority and this tournament will be no different. We will be implementing and following strict COVID-19 protocols and guidelines as shared by the Government of India and the Delhi Government," Organising Secretary and General Secretary of BAI Ajay Singhania said.
"We understand spectators have been an integral part of our growth story but this year despite it being an Olympic qualifier and an array of star shuttlers in action, we have to take the decision of conducting the tournament in a bio bubble. We hope fans and media will understand the challenges and support us. We will be using all our digital handles to broadcast and interact with fans and bring the players and fans much closer," Singhania added.
Three-time world champion Marin will lead the women's singles category along with other Top-10 shuttlers Akane Yamaguchi, 2019 World Champion PV Sindhu, Korea's An Se-Young, and Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong, alongside former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal of India.
India boasts of the largest contingent with 48 players (27 women and 21 men) while Malaysia has fielded the second largest squad with 26 shuttlers which includes 10 women and 16 men. 10 shuttlers (4 women and 6 men) from China are also part of the participants' list.
In the men's singles section, the Top-10 players in the fray include two-time world champion Momota, defending champion Viktor Axelson, Anders Antonsen, and reigning All England Open champion Zii Jia Lee. Former world No. 1 Srikanth Kidambi will lead the charge for the hosts along with B Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy, and Parupalli Kashyap. India's men's doubles challenge will be spearheaded by World No. 10 pairing of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy while Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will aim for valuable Olympic qualification points in women's doubles. Ponnappa will also partner Satwik in the mixed doubles category which sees Japanese pair of Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino leading the list of six Top-10 combinations in the fray.
The last date for withdrawal of entry is April 19 while the draw will be announced on April 20. (ANI)