Mass-scale withdrawals play havoc with Odisha Open; Nehwal, Kashyap, Ashwini-Sikki among absentees

Never before has a dollar-event in badminton carried such an โ€˜Indianโ€™ look. After all, with $75,000 up for grabs, the Odisha Open badminton tournament has only a tinge of international flavour, with not a single top seed across five sections showing up at Cuttack.

Clearly, the holding of three successive BWF events this month is proving to be increasingly embarrassing for the Badminton Association of India (BAI). Due to several reasons, including Covid positive cases, fear of contracting the dreaded virus or injury/fitness concerns of the players have kept almost every illustrious Indian name away.

Unprecedented number of last-minute withdrawals left the officials worried and the list could not be made public until close to 2 am on Tuesday. It was tough to find replacements for those pulling out of the qualifying as well as main rounds. A fair number of no-shows played havoc with the schedule. As a result, a non-descript player Vishal Vasudevan, not in the main draw till last evening, now finds himself in the pre-quarterfinal after two walkovers.

The withdrawal of the seeded entries across sections was startling. In the menโ€™s singles, only three seeds remain after five seeds including P. Kashyap, Sourabh Verma, Ajay Jayaram and withdrew. Third seed Subhankar Dey, sixth seed Xiaodong Sheng (Canada) and seventh seed Cheam June Wei (Malaysia) are the new favourites for the title.

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Only two seeds remain in women singles, that has 30 Indians and two Americans of Indian origin, after top seed Saina Nehwal led the no-shows of six seeded players, including Supanida Katethong (Thailand) and Aakarshi Kashyap. Fifth seed Ashmita Chahila and eighth seeded Disha Gupta (USA) are the only survivors.

Similarly, from the menโ€™s doubles and womenโ€™s doubles, six seeded pairs withdrew. Menโ€™s top seeded Russian pair Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov and the favourite for womenโ€™s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy topped the list of withdrawals.

In mixed doubles, seven seeded pairs pulled out, leaving sixth seed Raju Mohammad Rejan and Jamaludeen Anees Kowsar as the only surviving seed.

Strangely, even before the commencement of the main draw matches on Wednesday, large number of players withdrew across sections resulting in a number of walkovers.

With quality being at premium in such heavily depleted fields, the inaugural edition of Odisha Open appears almost like a National ranking event that is offering prize-money in dollars.

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