Taiwanese badminton star Tai Tzu-ying yesterday returned to international competition after an eight-month break with a victory at the Yonex Thailand Open in Bangkok.
Twenty-six-year-old Tai, 26, the top-seeded player at the tournament, met 18-year-old Thai player Benyapa Aimsaard in the opening round and narrowly won 21-18, 26-24.
Her previous tournament was the Yonex All England Open in March last year, where she won the women’s singles title, before the BWF World Tour was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benyapa was a last-minute replacement after another Thai player pulled out of the event.
It was a rollercoaster match for Tai. She led the first game 18-13 before her opponent scored five straight points to pull even, but she rallied to clinch the game by rolling off the next three points.
The world No. 1 struggled to put away her Thai opponent in the second game. She had to save a game point, and needed six game points of her own before taking the match.
Although there are no Chinese in the draw, there are still several top-ranked players competing who could test Tai, including her next opponent, Kim Ga-eun of South Korea, who is ranked No. 17.
Four other Taiwanese are scheduled to compete today.
In the men’s singles, Chou Tien-chen and Wang Tzu-wei are set to meet Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand and Brice Leverdez of France respectively.
Meanwhile, sixth-seeded pair Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin are to take on non-seeded Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen of Denmark in the men’s doubles.
Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal yesterday tested positive for COVID-19 at the Thailand Open, as officials rushed to contain a potential outbreak.
Nehwal, who was receiving medical treatment at a Bangkok hospital, was one of four players to test positive, the BWF said.
However, specimens from the three other players — India’s H.S. Prannoy and an unnamed Egyptian and German — later tested negative after they were re-examined. They were to be tested again yesterday.
Nehwal, a former world No. 1 and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, wrote on Twitter that she was told to go to hospital “just before” her opening match.
Her husband, men’s singles competitor Parupalli Kashyap, has gone into hotel isolation.
“The entire Indian team has been categorized high-risk by Thai health authorities and all players and their entourage are self-quarantining in their rooms at the hotel,” the Badminton Association of India said in a statement.
The association said that despite being considered “high-risk,” other Indian players were still allowed to play their matches yesterday.
In further bad news for India, Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist P.V. Sindhu was a high-profile casualty on day one as she lost to Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt, 21-16, 24-26, 13-21.
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