Kento Momota tests positive for COVID-19, Japan pulls out of Thailand events


World number one Kento Momota's long-awaited return to the international circuit has been delayed after he tested positive for COVID-19, prompting his national team to pull out of upcoming events in Thailand, Badminton World Federation (BWF) said on Sunday.

It has been a year since Momota sustained a career-threatening injury to his eye socket following a car accident on the way to Kuala Lumpur airport just hours after winning the Malaysia Masters last January.

Meanwhile, India's Lakshya Sen has also pulled out of the tournament due to a back strain that he sustained during training. The 19-year-old, who claimed five titles in the senior circuit in 2019 including two BWF World Tour Super 100 top honours, the SaarLorLux Open and the Dutch Open, has been advised rest by doctors after he suffered a back injury.

"Unfortunately, Lakshya will not be able to play the two events in Thailand due to a slight back strain that he suffered during training," PPBA Director and former India coach Vimal Kumar told PTI.

Thailand will host two Super 1000 events between January 12-17 and January 19-24.

Lakshya had last participated in the Denmark Open in October before he was forced to withdraw from SaarLorLux Open, where he was the defending champion, after his father and coach DK Sen had tested positive for the COVID-19 after reaching Germany.

Meanwhile, the Indian team, including Olympic hopefuls Saina Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth, on Sunday left for Thailand to compete in back-to-back BWF World Tour Super 1000 events. Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu is set to fly out of London on Sunday to play her first tournament since the coronavirus-induced break. She will reach Bangkok via Doha.

Denmark Open Super 750 and SaarLorLux Super 100 were the only two events which could be conducted since the BWF was forced to suspend the calender after the completion of the All England Championships in March.

"The players will have to reach Bangkok by January 4 and then stay in quarantine for a week to participate in the two events, so he won't be able to play this time," said Vimal.