Improved fitness helps Sai Praneeth move up a level

Sai Praneeth believes that improved fitness has helped him turn the corner. Safe in the knowledge that he could trust his body to go the distance, Praneeth recorded an unexpected, incredible Super Series title triumph, at the Singapore Open last month.

Sai Praneeth credited Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo for his improved fitness.   -  G.P Sampath Kumar

Sai Praneeth believes that improved fitness has helped him turn the corner. Safe in the knowledge that he could trust his body to go the distance, Praneeth recorded an unexpected, incredible Super Series title triumph, at the Singapore Open last month.

By defeating K. Srikanth in the summit clash, Praneeth became only the second Indian male badminton player to win a Super Series event. “The key was that I was confident about my fitness. I could play a strong game right from the first point. Earlier, I used to think twice before going all-out in first game, because I was scared that I would have nothing left in the tank for the third game,” Praneeth said, on the sidelines of the PSPB inter-unit badminton championship here.

The shuttler credited Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo with getting him in shape. Handoyo, who was hired recently by Badminton Association of India (BAI) to assist chief national coach P. Gopichand, laid the emphasis on endurance training. “Mulyo changed the training routine from short sessions to long four hour sessions. It has made a big difference,” Praneeth said.

Once the wheels began to turn, the 24-year-old started to dream big. The self-doubt that had clouded his mind began to ebb away. “We (Indian male players) used to always play well, but we did not have the confidence that we could win big titles. If you observe the top players in the world, they play the first point the same way they play the last.

But some players do not have that same winning mentality. They get a little scared. For example, there is tendency to freeze and play only safe, risk-free shots in the final points of a match. It is only when you get one or two close wins that your mind becomes free of doubt,” he said.

The World No. 22 will next compete in the SCG Thailand Open, before moving to the BCA Indonesia Open and the Crown Group Australia Open.

In August, the season's ultimate prize is up for grabs at the BWF World Championships. “Before, I wanted to just perform well. Now, my goal is to win tournaments,” Praneeth said.

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