As it happened - 2021 All England Open, Day 1: Indonesian team withdraws from competition

All the action and reaction from the first day of the 2021 All England Open Championships in Birmingham, England.

By Naveen Peter and ZK Goh
Picture by Badmintonphoto

Hello and welcome to the Olympic Channel's live blog coverage of the first day of the 2021 All England Open Badminton Championships!

Some 160 of the world's best singles players and doubles pairings have gathered in Birmingham, England, to contest the season's first World Tour Super 1000 event.

Play began at 2 PM local time (GMT) after a delay of five hours due to Covid-19 retests, with the men's top seeds Momota Kento and – after a huge scare – Viktor Axelsen both through to the second round.

There was also late breaking news as all of Indonesia's players and coaching staff have withdrawn from the tournament due to a reported positive Covid-19 case on their flight to the UK.

Video coverage of the All England Open on Olympic Channel is available subject to geo-restrictions.

Updates below are in GMT; newest updates first.

10:55 PM - What a day

Well that was a drama-filled first day of badminton action in Birmingham.

Some matches are still ongoing, but we will end the blog here for tonight.

Momota Kento, Viktor Axelsen, and P.V. Sindhu are among those through to the second round, but there was disappointment for London 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal who had to retire injured on her 31st birthday.

And we'll find out tomorrow if the rest of the Indonesian contingent who played earlier in the day and qualified for the second round, will concede walkovers to their opponents.

Do join us from around 9:45 AM GMT. Good night!

10:50 PM - Axelsen triumphs, eventually

Axelsen opens up another three-point gap at 18-15 and needs just three more points to secure his spot in the second round.

But he will not have expected this kind of test from Watanabe in the first round. The Japanese then lands a perfect cross-court drop shot as Axelsen was set up for a straight smash.

Watanabe then sends one long, and the next one wide.

Axelsen has four match points.

He tries an audacious behind-the-back return but that misses, and that's one match point saved by Watanabe. More powder for Axelsen's racket grip.

A shot that seems long is called in and Axelsen challenges immediately. That challenge is unsuccessful, and it's 20-18. Axelsen has no challenges left, having wasted an early one.

Watanabe saves another match point! It's now 20-19!

This is badminton drama at its finest.

And that's it! Watanabe sends one long and Axelsen can breath a HUGE sigh of relief! He shakes his head. 13-21, 21-19, 21-19. A very, very hard-fought win.

10:45 PM - Still anyone's to win

A slice of luck for Watanabe as a shot looking to go long hits Axelsen who was trying to get out of the way.

The Dane then plays a poor shot of his own and it finds the top of the net. Just like that, it's 14-14 again.

Two more points in a row to the Dane – Watanabe perhaps just losing his own composure here. It's a test of nerves now.

16-15 to Axelsen.

10:42 PM - Axelsen improving

Much better from Axelsen at the net and he's looking like he's finally – after much searching – found his groove.

The Dane leads this decider 14-11, but Watanabe is not out of this yet.

Watanabe plays a smart smash down the line that Axelsen gets back over the net, but wide. 14-12.

10:37 PM - Indonesian team withdrawals

More withdrawals to report – mixed doubles top seeds Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti have also conceded a walkover.

Indonesian media are reporting that the entire team has withdrawn due to a passenger on the flight to the UK testing positive for Covid-19.

It's worth emphasising that the entire team were cleared to play today after their Covid-19 (re)tests came back negative.

Meanwhile, Axelsen puts together four straight points to lead 11-9 at the interval.

10:35 PM - Watanabe still ahead

Four points in a row to Watanabe as Axelsen still looks out of sorts.

A meek backhand into the net from Axelsen and that's now five straight for the Japanese, who leads this decider 7-4.

The Dane looks extremely cautious. He finally wins one but he needs to really dig deep now.

A nice cross-court smash to take it to 7-6.

10:28 PM - Ginting out

Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is OUT of the All England without having set foot on court.

He has conceded his match, due 13th on Court 5, to his opponent Thomas Rouxel of France.

10:25 PM - Axelsen forces decider

Watanabe sends one long having dominated a superb 31-shot rally with Axelsen that forced the Dane to save the point multiple times in the rally.

That gives Axelsen an 18-16 lead in this second game, but as we've seen, that lead is by no means enough.

Another similar error on the next point, a shot that lands long from Watanabe, and there's breathing room for Axelsen.

Watanabe finally breaks that run of points for his opponent as Axelsen lands a shot into the net.

Axelsen then brings up game point, then challenges on a clear out call. 20-18, and he still has two game points. He's doing a lot of stretching. Is something hampering him?

That's long too. 20-19. His title defence is on the line… but Watanabe sends one long and we will go to a decider!

Still stretching during the break.

10:19 PM - To-and-fro

Watanabe back at 14-14 with an incredible shot just over the net, but across court.

Nice smash at the net, closing down quickly, from Axelsen to take the lead back.

Both men aggressive here, and Watanabe sends one long in the corner to give his Danish opponent some breathing room again.

10:13 PM - Watanabe continues push

Axelsen is clearly struggling to get in gear as Watanabe continues to string together good rallies.

Finally a run of points for the Dane, who's playing against the drift in this game, going out to a 10-6 lead. That's four on the trot for Axelsen.

Then a wild shot allowing Watanabe back into it then a smash from the Japanese has Axelsen stretching – and failing – to save the point.

Axelsen is repeatedly asking for his side of the court to be mopped. Just buying some recovery time. I doubt he expected to be pushed this hard.

Three in a row for Watanabe, a nice smash down the line, to bring it back to 10-9.

Level at 10-10 as the Japanese apologises for a bit of luck. Axelsen, at the net, lands one to head into the interval 11-10 up but clearly not at all in control.

10:07 PM - Axelsen nervous

The Dane looks nervous and doesn't look comfortable.

He went out to a 3-1 lead but has been pegged back to 5-4.

Watanabe, an almost-unknown quantity, continues to push the Dane, who smashes for 6-4.

10:00 PM - Watanabe takes first game

What is going on with Axelsen?

Error after error and he looks completely lost.

Axelsen saves one game point, but then sends a shot wide and Watanabe wins the first game 21-13!

9:59 PM - Can Axelsen recover?

Watanabe is putting Axelsen to the sword. Not helped by some errors from the Dane, for sure, but the Japanese leads 18-10.

We have never had a men's singles defending champion eliminated in the first round since the BWF introduced the SuperSeries in 2007.

Axelsen will not want to be the first.

9:55 PM - Improvement from defending champ

This is much better from Axelsen.

He's being a lot more assertive and aggressive with his play, growing in confidence. He's cut the gap to 12-9.

A decent 33-shot rally ends with Axelsen finally getting a downward shot off that Watanabe can't quite lift back.

9:51 PM - Axelsen struggles

Axelsen just doesn't look at the races to start.

He's let a few shots drop in bounds, choosing to leave good shots by Watanabe.

The Dane finally gets a good shot off, a cross slice to cut the deficit to 10-5.

But Watanabe wins the following rally to go into the interval 11-5 up. Wow!

9:47 PM - Watanabe starts brightly

Well, Watanabe has started like a train. 4-0 to the Japanese before the Dane finally gets a point on the board.

Axelsen goes straight to his bag to apply powder to his racket grip.

9:42 PM - Axelsen ready

Defending champion Axelsen is up against Watanabe Koki of Japan.

This is the last match up for TV coverage on the main court today, and also the last match we will cover for Day 1 on this blog.

Let's hope it's a barnstormer.

9:35 PM - Goh/Tan see it out

Five points in a row for the Germans after some sloppy play from Goh and Tan results in unforced errors.

Lamsfuß and Seidel 18-17 up all of a sudden.

But now Lamsfuß gets it all wrong, mishits the shuttle, and it's 18-18 again.

Into the net from the Germans after a powerful rally between Goh and Lamsfuß, and Goh/Tan are two away.

A repeat of that and now the Malaysians bring up three match points.

Tan lands one inside the backline and it's all over. Four points in a row for Goh and Tan, winning 21-11, 21-18.

Up next, the last TV match of the night featuring Viktor Axelsen.

9:30 PM - On the floor

What a rally! Incredible defence from both teams and an audacious between-the-legs shot too.

That rally ended with both Seidel and Lamsfuß on the floor.

17-13 to Goh/Tan.

9:28 PM - Malaysians edge closer

Now a 28-shot rally that's gone by in a flash. Quick flicks and aggressive shots full of pace, none of the lobs we sometimes see, go to the Malaysians.

But Lamsfuß and Seidel win serve back immediately on a fantastic return, then an unforced error. Goh/Tan 15-12 up.

9:24 PM - Better from Germans

A lot better from Lamsfuß and Seidel in this second game as they're pushing Goh and Tan a lot more. V Shem leaves one smartly for 10-9 but Lamsfuß smashes with power just out of Goh's reach for 10-10.

It's the Malaysians who hit the interval ahead, however.

9:19 PM - HIGHLIGHTS: Daddies win against Lane/Vendy

9:12 PM - One-sided opening game

The Malaysians are really no match for Lamsfuß and Seidel as they quickly open up a big one-sided lead.

Game point comes pretty quickly, and while the Germans save one, Goh and Tan see the game out 21-11 in 14 minutes.

9:04 PM - Broken string? No problem

A quick, fast 26-shot rally is ended by Mark Lamsfuß, at front of court, playing a winning smash despite having broken strings on his racket.

Goh/Tan have the lead, 8-5, however.

8:56 PM - Doubles up next

We've got Olympic men's doubles silver medallists Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong, the seventh seeds, up next against Germany's Mark Lamsfuß and Marvin Seidel.

The Malaysians, former world number 1s, are currently ranked 11th and are in real danger of missing out on the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The Germans, meanwhile, recently lost the Swiss Open final.

8:47 PM - Nehwal retires

Kashyap, sitting in the coaches' chair, looks concerned.

Nehwal looks in clear pain. She's walked up to the chair and announced her retirement from the match.

A really sad end to her 2021 Championships, on her birthday.

Blichfeldt wins 21-8, 10-4 (ret).

The Dane looks across at Nehwal and asks if everything is okay and if the Indian needs any help with her gear leaving the court.

You can re-live better times for Nehwal with her London 2012 bronze medal match below.

8:45 PM - Nehwal injured

Saina Nehwal appears to be struggling with a bit of an injury. She's been trying to squat and stretch, could be a hip problem.

She took the first two points of this game but Blichfeldt now leads 8-3. A little grimace from Nehwal there, she looks uncomfortable.

9-3, she's in pain. She just reached for her right hip.

8:37 PM - Blichfeldt bliss

No problems for Blichfeldt at the moment.

Things just aren't going the Indian's way right now. Unforced errors from Nehwal, and Blichfeldt has a 17-7 lead.

The birthday girl will need to dig deep to find something in the second game, because the deficit in this first game seems far too big for her to overcome.

A great lift from Blichfeldt and Nehwal chooses to leave it – as it lands well in-bounds.

Then the Indian sends one wide and it's game point to Blichfeldt.

The same result on game point and Mia Blichfeldt takes the first game 21-8 in 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, over on Court 3, Blichfeldt's fellow Dane Anders Antonsen, the men's third seed, leads Brice Leverdez of France 21-14, 10-6.

8:28 PM - Nehwal struggling

We've just seen a shot of Parupalli Kashyap, who lost to Momota Kento in this afternoon's first match, courtside to cheer on his compatriot Nehwal.

The London 2012 bronze medallist is trying her best to keep pace with Blichfeldt but the Dane is proving really strong at the moment.

A neat flick from the seventh seed across the net gives her a 9-5 advantage before she lands a great slice.

Nehwal then sends one wide and the Dane takes five straight points to lead 11-5 at the interval.

8:13 PM - Welcome back

Welcome back to our live blog coverage of Day 1 of the All England Open.

Don't forget, we've got live video coverage here on Olympic Channel too, with certain geo-restrictions. Click the banner above to find out if you are able to watch the tournament in your region.

Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith, England's seventh seeds in the women's doubles, are through to the second round 21-14, 21-11.

Up next, birthday girl Saina Nehwal of India, who turned 31 today. She faces seventh seed Mia Blichfeldt.

7:43 PM - Short break

There's been a change to the order of play on the main court as we're now seeing the women's doubles match between England's Birch/Smith and India's Bhat/Gautam.

This blog will be taking a quick break and we'll be back shortly to continue to keep you up to date with all the action in Birmingham.

7:27 PM - Ahsan/Setiawan scrape through

A cross-court smash from Ahsan ends another by-now-standard rally between the two pairs, and levels the decider at 16-16.

It's impossible to call this from here. The Indonesian coach looks very worried. Ahsan doesn't look comfortable.

The English pair win the next point but then Lane, a left-hander, sends a return into the net. 17-17 again.

An attempted cross-court shot is mistimed and wildly off target from the Scottish-born Vendy, and now the "Daddies" have the lead at 18-17, which they quickly extend to 19-17.

And another service fault from Ahsan! He's been pinged five or six times already this match and he is not happy with the service judge. He complains to no avail to the chair umpire.

Despite that, Setiawan smashes a return and wins a match point.

One saved by the English pair, who will now serve facing match point. A cross-court smash and the Indonesians scrape through!

Wow. What drama. What incredible badminton. Hats off to Lane and Vendy who pushed the reigning world champions all the way.

Final score: 21-18, 19-21, 21-19.

"I think today we're still not 100 per cent, but I think the first match is always difficult, but I hope that for tomorrow we will be better," Setiawan told the BWF afterwards.

Lane, meanwhile, reflected: "We're disappointed, but when it comes to it at the end they don't allow you to take your chances. They're so good at winning, they were just better than us at the end. We've definitely improved in the last six months."

7:20 PM - HIGHLIGHTS: Jonatan Christie's win over Kunlavut Vitidsarn

7:17 PM - Upset on the cards

This is still anyone's game. The second seeds are not playing like second seeds right now – or perhaps Lane and Vendy are just playing way above their world ranking would suggest.

Rallies galore between the two sides, and Lane and Vendy eke ahead 10-9.

11-9, four straight points for England.

Meanwhile on court three, Olympic bronze medallists Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge are up against Ireland's Joshua Magee and Paul Reynolds. Ellis has already beaten Reynolds in the mixed doubles today.

7:10 PM - Vendy bosses rally

Wow. Sean Vendy, take a bow. Great defence in a rally then he just completely takes control and intercepts a shot, smashing it past Setiawan.

3-3 in the third game.

7:06 PM - Lane/Vendy force decider

The English pair challenge an out call on game point, unsuccessfully. 20-18, with the Indonesians having saved two game points.

Then Vendy sends a cross-court lob long, making it 20-19 – three game points saved.

But a poor service from Setiawan means the English pair have forced a decider!

21-19.

7:04 PM - Decider incoming?

Ahsan dives at the corner to save a shot during a rally and somehow Setiawan keeps the rally alive alone, but Ahsan then sends it long.

Looks like we may be headed for a decider.

7:01 PM - Change of racket… in the middle of a rally

What have we just seen?

Another incredible rally, and in the middle of it Lane runs off to try to replace his racket!

And with only Vendy on court, Ahsan sends it long! A challenge follows, unsuccessfully.

6:56 PM - Fair play

The Indonesians commit a double hit, which is not spotted by any of the umpires or judges.

But Ahsan calls it himself, awarding the point to Lane and Vendy.

No matter, though, the "Daddies" lead at the second game interval, 11-10.

6:51 PM - 56-shot rally!

A fantastic rally that goes 56 shots is won by the Indonesians. Great defence from Lane and Vendy, with Lane on the floor at one point, but Ahsan/Setiawan open up a 5-3 lead.

6:46 PM - "Daddies" take first game

The Indonesians take the first game - after the English pair decide to challenge on game point. The HawkEye review comes to nothing.

I don't think Ahsan and Setiawan would have expected to be pushed this hard by Lane and Vendy, who have made a good showing of themselves.

21-18.

6:44 PM - Lane/Vendy struggling

Ahsan challenges Vendy with a quick, short rally at the net and forces the error from the Englishman.

Then the Indonesians send a shot into the corner and Lane yells for Vendy to leave it - only to see it land in bounds. 18-16 to the "Daddies".

6:41 PM - Indonesians showing class

Some smart play from the veteran Indonesians to react to Vendy being stretched out on the ground, playing a drop shot out of the Englishman's reach.

The "Daddies" continuing to make the most of their experience to roll off five straight points.

But then Ahsan service faults, and Lane/Vendy have it back.

15-13.

6:38 PM - Lane/Vendy ahead at interval

Surprisingly, perhaps, Lane/Vendy are keeping up with Ahsan/Setiawan.

It's 10-10 with the Englishmen forcing a lot of play at the net.

Now Ahsan/Setiawan find themselves trailing as a shot goes long and amazingly, the home pair lead the world number two team.

6:30 PM - Veteran "Daddies" ready to go

The "Daddies", Indonesia's 34-year-old Mohammad Ahsan and 36-year-old Hendra Setiawan, are on the main court next taking on England's Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, the world number 18s.

Ahsan and Setiawan, the second seeds, should be favourites here but don't forget the "Minions" were taken to a decider by an English pair earlier today.

Lane and Vendy are coached by Athens 2004 mixed doubles silver medallist Nathan Robertson, who alongside Gail Emms remains the last English winner of an All England title.

6:19 PM - Christie finally triumphs

Finally the pressure tells!

Christie takes the lead in the two-clear-points passage of play for the first time, and then he sees it out 24-22.

What drama in that second game!

Final score: Jonatan Christie (INA) 21-13, 24-22 Kunlavut Vitidsarn (THA)

Christie, who recently suffered a personal bereavement, dedicated the win to his late brother after the match.

"I'm very happy to be back on a badminton court and at the All England. I was a little bit nervous in the first game because last year, I lost to Lee Zii Jia on the same court. I'm happy to be through to the second round.

"Preparations haven't been easy after the Asian leg. I feel great in the three weeks we've had to train and tried to focus on this tournament. I would like to dedicate this victory to my brother who recently passed away. I want to show my best in this tournament for my brother."

Over on Court 3, Yamaguchi is also through in the women's singles.

6:17 PM - Who will win this game?

Christie looks spent and who can blame him? A wild off-balance return goes wide and gives Kunlavut game point.

A good diving save from Christie in the middle of the rally on game point and then Kunlavut dives to try to keep it alive but he can't. Game point saved, 20-20.

Kunlavut takes the advantage with a cross-court smash just out of Christie's reach, but the Indonesian levels again.

Still anyone's game as the Thai goes back ahead at 22-21.

6:13 PM - Incredibly tight game

A superb cross-court smash from Kunlavut has Christie diving at full stretch but the Indonesian can't get there.

The Thai is playing wonderfully right now and is clearly riding a high having reached the Swiss Open final two weeks ago against Viktor Axelsen.

Christie gets one back with a smash that just clips the net and takes it beyond Kunlavut's behind-the-back attempt. Then, an unforced mistake from Kunlavut sending a shot long levels this second game up at 17-17.

But the next point goes his way as it's Christie's turn to make an error, and Kunlavut lands a perfect straight smash down the line to build a two-point lead at 19-17.

Another silly error from the Thai, a weak drop attempt that only finds net.

Christie goes on the attack at 18-19, and although Kunlavut defends hard, the 38-shot rally ends in the Indonesian's favour. 19-19.

6:05 PM - Christie on back foot

After a run of six straight points for Kunlavut, Christie finally breaks through after a 43-shot rally ends with the Thai hitting wide.

If Christie wants to avoid a deciding game, his opponent is not making it easy.

Kunlavut reacts quickly to get the shuttle back over at the net and the Thai leads this game 15-12.

Over on Court 3, Yamaguchi Akane of Japan, the women's third seed, is underway against France's Qi Xuefei.

6:00 PM - Just one point in it

A super high-speed rally with Christie defending solidly as Kunlavut sees another of his shots go wide.

Four points in a row for Christie now before Kunlavut finally halts that run by smashing one to the backline.

More of the same on the next point as the Thai wins a 21-shot rally to take it to 10-10.

The last point before the interval goes to Kunlavut as Christie can't quite get a return off to a quick flick. One point the difference at the towel break.

5:55 PM - Thriller in store

This second game is a lot closer, with the first 12 points being split evenly. Kunlavut has adjusted better than Christie has to this second game and the change of court halves.

The 19-year-old from Thailand continues to put Christie under pressure with superb smashing and the Indonesian is being made to work here.

8-6 to Kunlavut.

5:46 PM - Christie takes first game

Superb net play from Christie as he jumps all over a shuttle barely over the net to smash it out of Kunlavut's reach and set up game point.

A cheeky drop shot over the net and Kunlavut has no answer to it.

21-13 to Christie.

5:44 PM - High intensity

Every time Christie seems to pull away, Kunlavut Vitidsarn puts together a run of points to claw back.

Three on the bounce for the Thai to close it to 16-13, before the Indonesian breaks that up.

High intensity from both, and although Christie has led since the start, he hasn't had it all his own way.

5:37 PM - Kunlavut trying hard

Despite the early promise, Kunlavut is having to dig deep to score points here as Christie piles on the pressure.

A wild smash from the Indonesian goes wide to give his Thai opponent a point back and then Kunlavut lands one just inside at the back line and the gap is trimmed to 12-8.

5:29 PM - 47-shot rally

An incredible rally in just the sixth point, 47 shots between Kunlavut and Christie. Christie had to go to his knees for a save in the middle of that rally too. Superb stuff.

5:18 PM - Jonatan Christie up next

Tsuneyama sees off Penty in straight games to book a date in the next round with Rasmus Gemke.

That means men's singles fifth seed Jonatan Christie is next on the main Geoff Rofe Court, against Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand.

5:12 PM - HIGHLIGHTS: Momota's win over Kashyap

4:46 PM - Tsuneyama pulls away

Former world number 10 Tsuneyama Kanta and England's Toby Penty are currently locked in a very tight match at 15-13 to the Japanese, with Penty having been up by four points at one stage.

Gemke is on the verge of beating Nishimoto on Court 2, while Intanon and the Japanese pair of Endo/Watanabe are also through.

4:25 PM - Around the courts

A quick look elsewhere now:

On Court 2, men's seventh seed Rasmus Gemke leads Japan's Nishimoto Kenta 21-13 after their first game.

Thailand's women's fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon is 18-13 up on Kristin Kuuba of Estonia on Court 3.

And on Court 5, men's doubles fourth seeds Endo Hiroyuki / Watanabe Yuta lead England's Rory Easton / Zach Russ 21-4.

4:23 PM - Sindhu through in straight games after hard fight

The service keeps changing hands as this game continues to-and-froing.

Cheah is doing well but is getting let down by her unforced errors, while Sindhu just needs to dial in like she did in the first game.

On 18-17, Cheah sends a return wide – another silly error – and now she looks in trouble. She grins / grimaces in the knowledge that that could prove vital.

Sindhu takes the next point to set up three match points, and after a ferocious rally Cheah sends one high and long and Sindhu is through.

The Indian wins 21-11, 21-17 to set up a second-round clash against Line Christophersen.

Read our report here.

4:11 PM - Better from Cheah - but close

This is much better from Cheah, who is matching Sindhu every point of the way.

9-8 to Cheah in the second game, a point after the Malaysian wins a challenge after a very loud out call by the line judge.

Then a lucky net cord means Sindhu can't quite get a point and Cheah could open a gap up here.

But Sindhu strikes back aggressively with a couple of power smashes and one eventually finds its way past Cheah.

The Indian continues in much the same form and Cheah can only just about save one of the smashes from reaching the ground, only to look up and see her return hit the net.

Another unforced error from the Malaysian into the net and Sindhu leads 11-10 at the interval.

4:00 PM - Sindhu eases to first game

A successful challenge on an in call by Sindhu sees her extend her lead to 18-10, as the errors start to pile up from Cheah.

More unforced errors and Sindhu suddenly finds herself on game point, and a shot from Cheah goes long to end the first game in 16 minutes.

Sindhu takes it, 21-11.

We recently caught up with Sindhu, as well as track and field athletes Meseret Defar of Ethiopia and Alysha Newman of Canada, for a very special International Women's Day roundtable.

Watch it below:

3:57 PM - Lack of fans "bizarre", Ellis says

We've heard from Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith after their mixed doubles first-round win earlier.

"I thought the empty arena would be weird and I was right - it’s so bizarre. All we could hear was our coach clapping along. We have to remember there are thousands of people watching on television and we want to put on a good show for them," Ellis said to BWF.

Smith added: "It’s incredible to be here. We had a great year last year and it’s a huge privilege to be a part of it. We miss the fans and we want them back."

3:54 PM - Sindhu pulling away

At the interval, Sindhu's coach seemed to suggest that the Indian – 11-7 up at that point – could have been as far as 11-1 ahead.

No matter, she has pulled away from Cheah now as she shows all her experience and skill.

P.V. leads 14-8.

3:48 PM - Good early exchanges

Sindhu and Cheah are trading points in the early going, with the Indian ahead 7-6.

She has had her Malaysian opponent on the floor scrambling at least twice, but Cheah is making a good showing of herself here.

3:40 PM - Sindhu time

So, Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu is about to take to the court against Malaysia's Soniia Cheah.

Sindhu, the women's singles fifth seed, has a real shot here in Birmingham with both Tai Tzu-ying and Carolina Marín absent from the All England.

3:33 PM - Ellis/Smith show class

Ellis and Smith were just too good for their Irish opponents today.

A straightforward 21-12, 21-11 win for the host country pair in just 30 minutes.

Reynolds and Darragh were outplayed. Ellis and Smith would appear to have a clear path to the last four, with no other seeds in their quarter.

Ellis and Reynolds are due to face each other again later today in the men's doubles.

Meanwhile, some good news for India over on court 3 as the men's doubles sixth seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have seen off England's Nikhar Garg and India's Aniruddha Mayekar 21-7, 21-10.

3:28 PM - A word on the delay

A quick mention about the delay to play today.

The BWF announced late last night, just after 10 PM local time in England, that a number of Covid-19 test results from participating teams had come back either positive or "inconclusive".

This forced the federation to postpone the start of play from 9 AM to 2 PM.

No order of play was published until earlier today, after the samples were re-tested and all came back negative.

The "full complement of athletes" was allowed to commence the tournament, the BWF said this afternoon.

3:23 PM - Momota, Kashyap react

Speaking to BWF after his win, Momota said:

"I practiced for a long time and I have prepared for this tournament. I am very happy to win but in the beginning I was a little bit nervous and I'm happy with the result." - Momota Kento

Meanwhile, his defeated opponent Kashyap had this to say:

"I could not figure out how to play him, at least at the start, and the beginning of the second game. He’s at a better fitness level and I’m getting there. I had a tough time over the last one year, I kept getting injured.

"I got four weeks of training and I’m in good shape. I could play well in patches and push him to a stage where he got a bit nervous. He has a lot of wins with him so he’s confident. I can take some positives from the second game."

3:19 PM - Okuhara comfortably through

Just 29 minutes needed for Okuhara Nozomi on Court 2 to see off her Danish opponent 21-11, 21-7.

On the main court, the English pair took the first game 21-12.

It must be said, it's not clear if organisers are going to try to complete all 80 scheduled games today, given the 1:30 pm start on the outside courts and 2 pm start on the main court.

We could be looking at a very, very late end if so.

3:12 PM - Fast rallies

The speed of the doubles matches is something to behold. Great entertainment on Court 1 between the Irish and English.

Ellis and Smith are linking up well, as you'd expect partners on and off the court to do. However, Reynolds and Darragh haven't given up quite yet.

Some really good rallies and the Irish pair trail 8-16.

3:08 PM - Fourth seeds Ellis/Smith lead at interval

Back on the main court, the day's second match between Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith of hosts England, the fourth seeds, and Ireland's Paul Reynolds and Rachael Darragh is at the first interval.

The English have had the better of the play – and the luck – so far, and are 11-5 up.

3:00 PM - Minions survive test

The Minions are through on court 3, seeing off their English opponents 21-9 in the deciding game.

Hats off to Clare and van Leeuwen for pushing the Indonesian top seed pair all the way.

Speaking to BWF, Gideon said afterwards: "They played well today. We haven’t faced them before, so we were not used to their game. We really missed playing tournaments; we haven’t played for a year. We missed the atmosphere. It’s really nice to be back here. I really want to win again this year, because it’s special. We really want to do our best for the fans."

On Court 2, women's singles second seed Okuhara Nozomi has taken the first game against Julie Dawall Jakobsen 21-11.

2:51 PM - Momota victorious

Momota gets a fourth match point as his shot just about finds the back line!

Kashyap challenges the call but HawkEye confirms it's in play.

Then a return from the Indian goes wide and that's that. Not a good day for the Indian men; world number one Momota is into the second round.

Final score: Momota Kento (JPN) 21-13, 22-20 Parupalli Kashyap (IND)

2:49 PM - Kashyap saves three match points

A fantastic rally on match point at 20-17 as Kashyap saves one match point, landing it just inside the court.

And another match point saved! Superb stuff from the Indian!

A fantastic smash to end a rally to save the third match point and it's 20-20!

Over on court 3, the men's doubles top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia, aka the 'Minions', face a deciding third game against hosts England's Matthew Clare and Ethan van Leeuwen.

The Minions took the first game 21-12, but the English pair have just claimed the second 21-19.

2:46 PM - Kashyap still in this

With one Indian man already out, their attention now turns to the main court where Parupalli Kashyap has reduced his deficit to Momota in the second game.

It's only 18-16 to the Japanese now.

2:43 PM - Srikanth out

We have a result from Court 2 where Srikanth, the eighth seed, is OUT.

Nhat Nguyen has taken the third game, and the match.

Final score (Court 2): Nhat Nguyen (IRL) 21-11, 15-21, 21-12 Kidambi Srikanth (IND)

2:35 PM - Momota in full control

Parupalli Kashyap doesn't have much in response to Momota here. He's trying his hardest to return Momota's rallies but the Japanese is in just too good form.

We're at the second interval and Momota, having taken nine out of the last ten points, is up 11-3.

Over on Court 2, Nguyen has taken the lead in the third game 17-12 over Srikanth.

2:25 PM - Srikanth into decider

On Court 2, Kidambi Srikanth has taken the second game against Nhat Nguyen 21-15, so they're into a decider.

Momota has turned on the after-burners on the main court and has pulled away from Kashyap, at 20-13 (game point).

2:19 PM - Momota leads at first interval

Kashyap did well to fight back from that 7-1 deficit, but it's the Japanese who leads at the first game interval, 11-9, after 10 minutes of play.

If Kashyap can keep this up, he could push the world number one here – and perhaps finally break his run of seven consecutive first-round eliminations.

2:15 PM - India's women's doubles through

Over on Court 3, India's women's doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy are through to the second round, having comfortably dispatched Thailand's Aimsaard sisters 21-14, 21-12.

We also have a result on Court 4, where Denmark's Line Christophersen beat Martina Repiska of Slovakia 21-12, 21-11 in the women's singles.

Back on the main court, Momota has been pegged back from a 7-1 lead to 7-7 by Kashyap.

2:00 PM - Underway

While we're still waiting for Momota and Kashyap on the main court, action is underway on the four outside courts.

Nhat Nguyen is off to a good start on court 2 against Kidami Srikanth, having taken a quick 21-11 first game. The Irishman is level 6-6 with the Indian in the second game.

1:20 PM - Play nears

We're approaching the start of play only around 40 minutes away now.

When he takes to the court, Momota Kento will be returning to participate in an international tournament for the first time in 14 months.

His last outing, the Malaysia Masters in January 2020, ended with victory – then tragedy as on his way to the airport to fly home, the vehicle he was travelling in was involved in a fatal accident.

Speaking recently to Laureus, having been nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, he said of competing in Birmingham:

"It’ll be my first tournament overseas in 14 months, so I’m sure I’ll be nervous. It’ll be half nerves and half excitement. There’s a part of me that’s worried even as I practice now, but I want to play to win since I’m going."

12:30 PM - Five courts

Don't forget, there are five courts in use today to get through nearly 80 matches.

With the five-hour delay, it seems unlikely that all 80 matches will be concluded today, but time will tell.

Of note on Court 2, India's Kidambi Srikanth leads off against Ireland's Nhat Nguyen in the men's singles before women's singles second seed Okuhara Nozomi takes on Denmark's Julie Dawall Jakobsen.

Four doubles games open play on Court 3 before Thailand's fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon faces Kristin Kuuba of Estonia in the women's singles.

We will of course keep you up to date with the action across all five courts, but we will focus the blog coverage on the main court.

12:00 PM - Momota vs Kashyap first up at 2 PM

After all the confusion, we have some clear signs of badminton action getting underway at the All England Open Badminton Championships.

It's a hectic day on the main court with the top-ranked Momota Kento kick-starting the proceedings against India's Parupalli Kashyap.

The local pair of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith will be next in their mixed doubles tie against Paul Reynolds and Rachael Darragh of Ireland.

World champion PV Sindhu will follow them for her opening round match against Malaysia's Soniia Cheah.

11:30 AM - Happy birthday, Saina Nehwal

Guess, who celebrates her big day today? It's the bronze medallist from the 2012 London Olympics — Saina Nehwal.

The Indian ace has had a troubling few months leading up to the Olympic year, but the 31-year-old will be eager to get back into her groove in time for Tokyo 2020.

She begins her All England Open Badminton Championships against Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt.

11:00 AM - The 'Minions' return

The All England Open Badminton Championships will see the men's doubles pair of Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo take the court for the first time this year.

The Indonesians have been the men's doubles world number one since September 2017 and they look in no mood to relinquish their crown any time soon.

10:30 AM - Advantage, Marcus Ellis!

For the Olympic bronze medallist Marcus Ellis, the All England Open Badminton Championships is not just another event on the BWF World Tour.

Here's what he thinks about playing in his home competiton.

10:00 AM - Robin Tabeling, Selena Piek's memorable win 

The Dutch mixed doubles pair of Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek enjoyed a memorable All England Open last year with their win over the world number one pair of Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong of China. 

Listen in as they relive their fine show.

9:45 AM - Where to watch All England Open?

The Super 1000 event in Birmingham will see some of the top shuttlers compete for one of the prestigious titles in world badminton. Make sure that you don't miss the action! 

Here's where you can catch the All England Open Badminton Championships live.

9:30 AM - Momota returns!

The All England Open Badminton Championhips will see the world number one Momota return to an international arena for the first time since his horrific accident.

As the Japanese ace gets busy with his preparations for what will be a home Olympics, here's what he has to say about Tokyo 2020.

9:15 AM - Lee Zii Jia, Malaysia's newest hope

As we continue to await more information on the opening day of the 2021 All England Open Badminton Championships, here's a look at what 22-year-old Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia has to say about his idol Lee Chong Wei.

9:00 AM - Delayed start to All England Open

The start of the tournament at the Arena Birmingham, originally scheduled for 9:00 AM local time (GMT), has been delayed to at least 2:00 PM due to Covid-19 sample retests following a number of positive and inconclusive results.

More details of what's coming up on Wednesday are below.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The round of 32 matches in each of the five events – men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles – will take place on Wednesday.

Among the tantalising matches on day one are top men's singles seed Momota Kento of Japan taking on India's Parupalli Kashyap, Momota's teammate Nishimoto Kenta facing seventh seed Rasmus Gemke of Denmark, and France's Brice Leverdez going against third seed Anders Antonsen.

With women's top seed Carolina Marín having withdrawn, her opponent Supanida Katethong of Thailand now faces wildcard Mariya Mitsova of Bulgaria, but there are still other key matches to watch including Yamaguchi Akane of Japan, the third seed, facing Qi Xuefei of France, and India's Saina Nehwal coming up against seventh seed Mia Blichfeldt.