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India Open: Kidambi Srikanth, 6 others positive, withdrawn

AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE

Kidambi Srikanth has tested positive for Covid-19 and been withdrawn from the India Open, currently underway in New Delhi. Six more players, all Indians, have also returned positive results in the mandatory RT-PCR tests conducted on January 11. Ashwini Ponnappa, one half of the country's highest-ranked women's doubles pair has also tested positive for the virus and though her partner, N Sikki Reddy, returned a negative test, the latter and her mixed doubles partner Dhruv Kapila are among the players who have been pulled out of the event on grounds of being close contacts of the positive pool of players.

The results will affect at least ten second-round matches and since this comes after the tournament has begun, there will be no replacements and opponents of the withdrawn players will be given a walkover. The other players who have tested positive are Ritika Thaker, Treesa Jolly, Mithun Manjunath, Simran Singhi and Khushi Gupta. The other doubles players who have been withdrawn on account of being close contacts are MR Arjun, Akshan Shetty, Utkarsh Arora, Sai Pratheek K, Gayatri Gopichand and Kavya Gupta.

This comes after all the concerned players completed their respective first-round matches and trained at the venue, bringing into question the larger impact. The results, it is understood, arrived close to midnight on Wednesday and the affected players staying at the hotel were informed early on Thursday and briefed to avoid the breakfast area in the morning.

The fresh pile of positive numbers further depletes an already weakened field and the Super 500, being conducted even as the third wave grips the capital city, recording over 27,000 cases on Wednesday, could see numbers rise in the days ahead. With a positivity rate of 26.22 per cent , the Delhi government on Tuesday announced stricter curbs and near-lockdown measures, ordering the closure of all private offices, restaurants and bars in the city. Under its revised guidelines, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority allows only private offices that fall under the essential/exempt category to remain open.

The reports from the daily antigen tests of all seven names were negative on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was their RT-PCR tests that turned out to be revelatory.

The spectre of the virus was cast over the event even before its start as the entire England team and a bunch of Indian players, including 2019 World Championship bronze medalist Sai Praneeth, and doubles players Manu Attri and Dhruv Rawat pulled out. As things stand, the tournament which runs until Sunday, is fast turning into a survival contest in a dwindling field.