India's top singles badminton player Saina Nehwal, the world No.3, pulled out of the Syed Modi International Indian GP Gold event citing a knee injury when she was a point away from winning the first round game against Russia's Ksemia Polikarpova.
Saina had won the first game 21-17 and was leading 20-18 in the second after which she informed the chair umpire that she was conceding the match. Saina said that she had first experienced the pain in her right knee in August and had to play the Denmark Open with a strapping around the joint.
"I decided to play here even though my knee was hurting because it was in India. At times there is a shooting pain and today I didn't want to take further risk," Saina said later.
The signs of her withdrawal were visible on Tuesday itself as Saina had hinted that it was unlikely that she would be at her best because she had a "little knee injury."
After conceding the game Saina consulted the tournament doctor and then was taken to the sports injury and rehabilitation centre at the venue where she was given physiotherapy for 15 minutes. Though she won the first game, Saina seemed to lack intensity and in the second game the Russian drew level on scores on more than one occasion.
Saina refused to comment on whether she had been pressured to play the tournament. Incidentally, the president of the Badminton Association of India Akhilesh Das Gupta is from Lucknow. "I won here in 2009 and would have liked to win it again in future,” Saina said.
BAI general secretary Vijai Sinha, who is also the secretary of the UP Badminton Association, the organising body of the tournament, said: "Saina didn't request for an exemption. We requested her to play because the fans here love to see her play."