Lucknow: Still recovering from a foot injury and a recurring fever, defending champion Saina Nehwal has pulled out of the women's singles competition at the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament here.
The Olympic bronze medallist cited illness as the reason behind her last-minute withdrawal.
"I have been carrying the illness for a couple of days and have not fully recovered. I need some time to recover and get back into shape," Saina said in a letter to the organisers of the event, which begin with the qualifiers here today.
World No. 2 Saina had hurt her achilles tendon during the China Open finals last year and missed the Hong Kong Open. She did play in the BWF Super Series Masters at Dubai in December but has been struggling with her fitness ever since.
The star Indian had played for Awadhe Warriors in the recently-concluded Premier badminton League, where she won two and lost one against China's Han Li in the semifinal contest.
"She was unwell during the PBL semifinal match and has been suffering from bouts of recurrent viral fever ever since.
So she is lacking in stamina and to play at the highest level, it is important to be at your best. So after consulting with her coach Vimal Kumar, she decided to skip the event," Saina's father Harvir Singh said.
Interestingly, Saina had confirmed her participation last week, organised by Uttar Pradesh Badminton Association under the auspices of Badminton Association of India (BAI).
In 2012, Saina had conceded the first round match despite being on match point against Russian Ksenia Polikarpova after complaining of knee problems. It left the organisers disappointed as Saina was not keen on playing and had already booked her return tickets to Hyderabad.
With Saina withdrawing, two-time bronze medallist at World Championship P V Sindhu will spearhead the Indian challenge and she has a bright chance of laying her hands on the trophy as she is brimming with confidence after winning the Malaysia Masters last Sunday.
The 25-year-old, who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan award yesterday, is the best bet for India at the Rio Olympics and has to be at the top of her game to earn India another medal at the Games.
Among others who pulled out of the event, World No. 11 Tommy Sugiarto is the most prominent name. The withdrawl of the Indonesian, who had an unbeaten run at the PBL, handed an easy first round match to India's Sourabh Verma, who will now take on compatriot Rahul Yadav Chittaboina.
In men's singles, defending champion Parupalli Kashyap, who was supposed to face Spain's Pablo Abian, will now meet qualifier Oscar Bansal in the opening round, while Siril Verma, the new world No. 1 among junior men, will face 11th seed Boonsak Ponsana in his opener.