Japan's badminton world No. 1 Kento Momota competes in the first round of All-Japan National Championships in Tokyo on December 23,
Japan's badminton world No. 1 Kento Momota Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The Badminton World Federation (BWF) will have to re-jig the draws after men’s world No. 1 and top seed Kento Momota tested positive for COVID-19 just before flying out for the Yonex Thailand Open and Toyota Thailand Open, on Sunday.

The BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) have jointly confirmed Momota being affected by the virus after undergoing a mandatory PCR test at Narita Airport in Tokyo en route to Bangkok earlier on Sunday.

The Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) has subsequently withdrawn all its singles and doubles players from the Yonex (from January 12-17) and Toyota (from January 19-24).

The BWF further clarified that both the Yonex and Toyota plus the BWF World Tour Finals 2020 will proceed as planned.

The entire Japanese team was due to fly out to Bangkok for the two badminton tournaments on Sunday evening. Momota had gathered with the rest of the national squad a day earlier at the National Training Centre at Kita, Tokyo.

But, the world No. 1 tested positive for the virus and the NBA had no choice but pull out the entire men’s and women’s squads forcing organisers to now have a new schedule for the two tournaments.

It had been a difficult year for the world No. 1 after being injured in a car accident en route to Kuala Lumpur airport just hours after winning the Malaysia Masters. There were fears his career might be over after sustaining an injury to his eye socket.

But the 26-year-old Japanese did well to recover and was eagerly looking forward to competing so that he could gather enough points to boost his standing in the BWF Road to Bangkok rankings and play in the season-ending World Tour Finals from January 27-31.

BWF and BAT will invite replacement players and pairs for both tournaments from the list of reserves already scheduled to arrive into the ‘Asian Leg Bubble’ in Bangkok on or before January 4 along with a Certificate of Entry into Thailand. All personnel who enter the country by or before Monday will then need to serve out a mandatory seven-day quarantine before competitions get under way from January 12.

The Asian leg of the calendar had already lost much of its glamour following the withdrawal of the entire China squad last year.

As per the initial draws put in place, top seed Momota was scheduled to play local lad Khosit Phetpradab in their opening round. Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen was the second seed, while the Denmark duo of Anders Antonsen and Viktor Axelsen were seeded No. 3 and 4, respectively.

In the women’s singles, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying was the top seed followed by the Japanese pair of Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara and Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon. World No. 3 Antonsen had stayed in isolation after testing positive while playing a team match in Aarhus early in December, while at least four Indian players — Parupalli Kashyap, HS Prannoy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and RMV Gurusaidutt — had also tested positive after attending a wedding.