Lucknow: In controversial circumstances, India's Olympic bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal "retired" on match point from the women's singles first round at the KL Garg-Syed Modi International India Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament at the Babu Banarsi Das Stadium here on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old was on match-point (21-17, 20-18) against Russian Ksenia Polikarpova when surprisingly she held her knee and told the referee she could not continue. Badminton Association of India (BAI) officials were not impressed with Saina's act. A top BAI official, on the condition of anonymity, told IANS that Saina had already booked her return tickets for Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.
Saina, who had skipped the last edition citing fatigue, was not keen on participating this time as well. But she decided to participate only in the morning session. Saina, however, said that she pulled out because she didn't want to put pressure on her knee.
Saina 'retired' on match point from her first-round match, allegedly to catch her return flight booked in advance.
"My physio had told me that I should not put much pressure on my knee. I was playing well but suddenly I felt some problem in my knee, so I decided to quit," said the top seed after the match. Saina, a champion here in 2009 and 2010, said she was carrying the injury from the Super Series final. Saina lost the semi-finals of the BWF World Super Series Finals on Saturday in Shenzhen, China.
"Even when I was playing at the Super Series Finals, I was playing with a taped knee. I have been facing this problem since then. This could have aggravated if I had continued. So I decided to back out," added the Hyderabadi.
The BAI official said Saina's pull-out was a big blow for the tournament. "Someone had booked her tickets from Hyderabad on Tuesday for Wednesday afternoon. If she did not want to play due to whatever reason, why did she come to Lucknow at all? It is a disaster for the tournament that the top seed and star attraction goes out on the first day," the official said.
Saina's match was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. but she persuaded the organisers to advance it to 12:30 p.m. "Yesterday Saina requested us if her match could take place a little earlier. So we scheduled it earlier. We had no qualms with that. How would we know she would do this?" added the official.
Sources told IANS that it was pressure from Lucknow-based Sahara India Pariwar, who roped in Saina as the brand ambassador on Tuesday, that prompted Saina to take part in the tournament. In more bad news for the organisers, men's singles top seed Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia also lost to India's Pratul Joshi 17-21, 12-17 in the first round.