Thursday January 27, 2022

Bubble badminton: tour returns behind closed doors in Bangkok

January 12, 2021

BANGKOK: A wretched spell for badminton ends at this week’s Thailand Open, where players will emerge from hotel quarantine to restart the world tour in bubble conditions in Bangkok.

The world’s top players — minus China and Japan, who were forced to pull out — have been bursting for a return to action after a build-up that has included long, lonely hours in their hotel rooms.

Olympic champion Carolina Marin posted a video of herself working out with a hotel towel, world number one Tai Tzu-ying used water bottles as weights and Denmark’s Anders Antonsen practised serving shuttlecocks into his sneakers.

The Thailand Open is the first of three consecutive tournaments played in strict bio-secure conditions and behind closed doors in Bangkok, culminating in the World Tour Finals from January 27.

Badminton has been all but sidelined since the All England Championships in March, but players and organisers alike will be hoping for a less disrupted year as they gear up for the Tokyo Olympics starting in July.

However, a resurgence in Covid-19 cases prompted a partial lockdown in Bangkok earlier this month. The Bangkok tournaments have also been severely weakened by the withdrawal of China, who were grounded by travel restrictions, and Japan, who pulled out when men’s world number one Kento Momota tested positive.