Saina Nehwal, HS Prannoy test negative for COVD-19 hours after positive results, cleared for Thailand Open
Chaos and uncertainty loomed over the India badminton contingent for most of Tuesday when Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy were forced to pull out of the $1 million Yonex Thailand Open after testing Covid-19 positive, only to be told at night that they could participate in the Super 1000 tournament because retests were negative.
Following the dramatic turn of events, world No.28 Prannoy’s first round will go ahead as scheduled on Wednesday. Nehwal and husband Parupalli Kashyap, who was also forced to isolate in the hotel as a precautionary measure, had to give first-round walkovers which have now been rescheduled for Wednesday by Badminton World Federation (BWF).
Nehwal and Prannoy were taken to a hospital where they spent nearly 12 hours without knowing what lay in store. BWF stated that Nehwal, Prannoy and one player each from Germany and Egypt had tested positive after the third round of mandatory testing, conducted on Monday. All had tested negative on January 4 and 11.
Prannoy and the players from Germany and Egypt tested negative again but Nehwal was found positive. The four underwent a second RT-PCR test, the gold standard for Covid-19 testing, and an antibody blood test.
After receiving the results, the BWF said: “Nehwal and Prannoy tested positive on the PCR test but their antibody IgG was positive. A positive antibody test means a person has been infected with Covid-19 virus at some point in the past. It does not mean they are currently infected. The committee was satisfied that they are not infected and do not pose a danger to the tournament.”
Prannoy, Nehwal and Kashyap had recovered from Covid-19 last month before flying to Thailand.
Following the test result, the India team had been categorised high risk by the local health authorities on Monday and told to quarantine in the hotel. The players were told they could continue playing on producing a negative result daily but without any court side assistance from coaches. However, following developments later on Tuesday this won’t be applicable.
“Timely intervention by BAI, taking up the matter with top most BWF officials to ensure if tests were negative, matches for respective players should be rescheduled and no walkover is given,” said Badminton Association of India (BAI) in a statement.
Repeated testing too had its share of problems with former world No.1 Kidambi Srikanth, due to play his opener against compatriot Sourabh Verma on Wednesday, tweeting images of blood on tissues following four nasal swabs taken over the past few weeks.
Sindhu’s shock exit
India had a poor day on court as sixth seed PV Sindhu squandered two match points and suffered a shock 21-16, 24-26, 13-21 first round loss to world No.18 Mia Blichfeldt. Sindhu’s challenge wilted in the third game as the world No.7 lost to the Dane for the first time in four outings.
B Sai Praneeth went down 16-21, 10-21 to local player Kantaphon Wangcharoen in 36 minutes. That was also how long it took Korean fourth seeds Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong to outclass women’s doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy 16-21, 7-21.
The only bright spot was Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy’s 21-11, 27-29, 21-16 upset win in 72 minutes over Indonesian sixth seeds Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja in mixed doubles. They will face Hong Kong’s Chang Tak Ching and NG Wing Yung for a place in the quarter-finals.
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- Often referred to as “giant-killer” for regularly beating top-5 players, Prannoy, the world No.28, was low confidence and without his winning touch when the pandemic shut down sporting activities.