PV Sindhu says she will go ahead with her plans to play in the Thailand events next month, flying via Qatar to avoid travel bans on flights out of UK. The reigning world champion, who's been in England since October, says she is looking to arrive in Bangkok in the first week of January. "It's going to be tough for sure...but I will be flying through Doha so it is not an issue currently. I will not be skipping any tournaments," she told ESPN.
Bangkok has two Super 1000 events and the World Tour Finals scheduled between January12-31. The Badminton Association of Thailand has strict SOPs in place for players and officials flying in to the country - including a negative test result (72 hours before prior to arriving in Bangkok) and a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the official hotel.
This cluster of tournaments precedes the Olympic qualifying window, which opens with the Swiss Open on March 2. Sindhu, who has already qualified for the Olympics, has been training at the National badminton center in Milton Keynes. She has also been working with Rebecca Rendall of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute on her nutrition and recovery.
With a sharp spike in infection rates of the new coronavirus variant, London and the east of England, which includes Milton Keynes, has entered into a newly-formed tier four lockdown. The "stay at home" order came into effect over the weekend with people being allowed to travel only for education, work, exercise or childcare.
"To be honest, I have been very careful," Sindhu says, "I have been spending most of my time in training. So I am happy that the national center is open and I am able to train. Life here is very different from the one in Hyderabad but I have been having a very good time. This is new to me and I am totally enjoying this change. I have also focused a lot on different aspects of training and that is very exciting for me as well to look at nutrition and recovery from a different lens."
A rising number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Canada, India and most European regions have already blocked flights and travelers from UK, and the list could grow as the virus situation worsens. Thailand too is battling its own virus demons, planning to test thousands of people following the country's worst outbreak so far, which saw cases jump from four to 689 over the weekend in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok. There are fears that all of this could cast doubts on the badminton events taking place at all. Sindhu, though, is seeking a silver lining. "I am super excited to be back on court," she says, "and I really hope the Thailand events happen."