Saina Nehwal chose to skip the opening tie of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) here on Saturday, citing a foot injury as the cause for pulling out at the last minute.
Saina came on court ahead of the tie and announced her inability to participate, leaving the few spectators who had trickled into the Sardar Patel NSCI Stadium disappointed.
The world No 2, who has been bought by Awadhe Warriors for $100,000 (`67 lakh), said she had suffered a serious foot injury, adding that she did not want to aggravate it with the Rio Olympic Games scheduled in August.
“A couple of weeks ago I suffered an injury on the foot. It is quite serious and I am on the verge of recovering,” said Saina.
“This being the Olympic year, I wanted to play it safe. It was my first practice session after a few weeks. We have five matches and I hope to recover and play,” she added.
Saina had played in the season-ending Dubai Super Series in December but did not cross the group stage after losing two out of the three games.
She had suffered a heel injury in August, and despite niggles, played in Dubai.
Saina is a crowd-puller and her participation is crucial to draw crowds to the stadiums and television viewers.
She reached the final of the China Open in November before pulling out of the Hong Kong Open due to the injury and then took part in Dubai.
On Saturday, she accompanied her side to the venue and cheered the Awadhe Warriors from the sidelines. Her side though did not fare well in her absence, slumping to a 2-1 loss in the best-of-five tie.
Saina’s place in the women’s singles was taken by 17-year-old G Vrushali, who lost to national champion Ruthvika Gadde Shivani of the host team, after the first men’s singles between Warriors’ Sai Praneeth and Rockets’ RMV Gurusaidutt ended in the latter’s favour.
Later, Mumbai’s men’s doubles pair of Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov overcame Cai Yun/Hendra Gunawan of the Warriors to give the home side the advantage.
Awadhe made a comeback with Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk beating Mumbai’s HS Prannoy in the other men’s singles.
However, Mumbai’s initial success was enough to give them a 2-1 win over the Lucknow outfit.