Badminton

Chinese players out of Thailand tour restart

BWF releases draws for two Thailand Open tournaments with Chinese team withdrawn over COVID concerns.

By Rory Jiwani ·

Badminton's BWF World Tour will resume in Bangkok next month without top Chinese players including reigning Olympic champion Chen Long.

The BWF released the draws for January's two consecutive Thailand Open tournaments on Tuesday (29 December) and stated, "Chinese Badminton Association has also confirmed the withdrawal of its team from both tournaments."

According to Thailand's The Nation, Badminton Association of Thailand president Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul said, "Through an online conference, the Chinese Badminton Association apologised for having to withdraw from the tournaments because of Covid-19 concerns."

China has seen an uptick on COVID cases in recent weeks and the government is bringing in strict measures - including a travel ban - to avoid a surge during the Spring Festival starting in late January and Chinese New Year on 12 February.

Those restrictions mean Chinese players will also miss the World Tour Finals scheduled for the Thai capital from 27-31 January.

As well as Chen, the tournaments will be missing women's world number two and 2019 World Tour Finals winner Chen Yufei, and the top-ranked women's doubles pairing of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.

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Thailand Open draw highlights

Fresh from his successful comeback at the All Japan Championships, world number one Momota Kento will face local player Khosit Phetpradab in the first round of the YONEX Thailand Open starting on Tuesday 12 January.

Second seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei also faces home opposition in the form of Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.

After a recent bout of coronavirus, world number three and Denmark Open champ Anders Antonsen has a potentially tricky opener against Malaysia's Daren Liew while fellow Dane Viktor Axelsen goes up against Thailand's Sitthikom Thammasin.

Indonesian stars Anthony Ginting and Jonatan Christie will meet Korea's Heo Kwang Hee and Loh Kean Yew of Singapore respectively.

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After a long absence, India's reigning women's world champion P.V. Sindhu could have her work cut out in her first-round clash with Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt.

Chinese Taipei's top seed Tai Tzu Ying meets Thailand's Nitchaon Jindapol while home favourite, fourth seed and former world champion Ratchanok Intanon, takes on Singapore's Yeo Jia Min.

But the highlight of the draw sees Japan's third seed Okuhara Nozomi pitted against India's London 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal.

Former world champion Okuhara won October's Denmark Open, the only BWF Tour event to be held since COVID interrupted the calendar in March.

Spain's Rio 2016 Olympic champion Carolina Marin meets Chinese-born French player Qi Xuefei in round one with the two players drawn together again in the TOYOTA Thailand Open starting a week later.

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