Saina opts out of Syed Modi Grand Prix

An unfit defending champion Saina Nehwal has pulled out of the $120,000 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold badminton championship citing "illness". Her withdrawal leaves third seed P. V. Sindhu as the strongest Indian lady in the tournament beginning Tuesday.

Saina Nehwal struggled in her Premier Badminton League endeavour owing to her injured foot.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

As expected, an unfit defending champion Saina Nehwal has pulled out of the $120,000 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold badminton championship citing “illness”. Troubled by Achilles Tendon injury on her right leg, Saina has been struggling to live up to expectations in the past couple of months. But the reason given by her for withdrawing from this annual event is, “I have been carrying the illness for a couple of days” and “[I’ve] not fully recovered.”

In a letter to the organiser of her “favourite” event, beginning here on Tuesday, Saina said, “I need some time to recover and get back into shape.” Even in the recently-concluded Premier Badminton League, Saina was an understandably-reluctant participant, winning twice but losing the key match in Awadhe Warriors’ semifinal clash against Mumbai.

This being an Olympic year, it was only advisable that Saina gives herself the necessary time to recover from her injury and illness before resuming training. However, her withdrawal from this event means she misses out on a chance to defend the points gained from winning the event last January. World No. 1 and last edition’s runner-up Carolina Marin is also giving the event a miss.

Sindhu strongest Indian in the competition

Saina’s withdrawal leaves third seed P. V. Sindhu as the strongest Indian lady in the fray. Should she once again get past Korean second seed Sung Ji Hyun – like she did in Malaysia last Saturday – a second Grand Prix Gold title in as many weeks could come Sindhu’s way.

Another notable withdrawal was World No. 11 and second seed Tommy Sugiarto. The Indonesian, who won all his six singles matches for Delhi in their successful PBL campaign last fortnight, has not specified any reason for staying away.

Sugiarto, who tamed former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei during the PBL, lost to the gritty Malaysian in straight games in the Malaysia Masters last week. The absence of Sugiarto makes it easier for the 2011 finalist Sourabh Verma, who now plays a qualifier in the first round.

In mixed doubles, top seeded Korean pair of Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na has withdrawn. There have been a number of last-minute pullouts from the main draws, allowing more players to advance from Tuesday’s qualifying rounds.