HS Prannoy: In badminton, things change very quickly

H. S. Prannoy talks about what keeps him motivated every day, while exploring his strengths and career targets.

Published : Jun 12, 2023 16:47 IST - 6 MINS READ

Top gun: H.S. Prannoy is India’s top men’s singles badminton player.
Top gun: H.S. Prannoy is India’s top men’s singles badminton player. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Top gun: H.S. Prannoy is India’s top men’s singles badminton player. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

At 30, he is the elder statesman of Indian badminton but with an indefatigable spirit, which can make a young talent envious, given the way he puts in those hours of hard work, shows great commitment levels and always showcases the intense desire to keep improving, more importantly, stay fit and give a run for the money for the other younger achievers.

So, when H.S. Prannoy won his maiden BWF World Tour 500 title clinching the Malaysian Masters title, it was a moment to cherish, considering that it came after a long gap of six years – the last time he won a title was the US Open.

“It is a great feeling. I think someday it was meant to happen (to win a big title),” he said on his latest triumph.

“I don’t look at this title coming a bit too late. For things don’t always happen the way you want them to be. That’s life and in sport too,” Prannoy said.

“Honestly, the journey has been satisfactory as such, to be honest, so far. Because some people might get things easy, win very early in their career,” says the seasoned shuttler after the Malaysian Open triumph, taking time off from the daily demanding training schedule at the Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad.

“There are a few who have to work very hard to get them. I come in the second slot. Things don’t come that easy for me. I always have to work hard to get my recognition. But I am pretty satisfied with the way things are going now,” he said.

“That way, it (the Malaysian Masters title) was not expected, to be honest. The competition and the draws were tough. A BWF Super 500 title is never easy for anyone, for that matter. And, for me personally, given the number of youngsters out there. You have to recover in time and play the next day at the same level. I have been very happy with the way I managed the entire week,” Prannoy said. ‘It’s too many emotions as such and then you are excited to come out there and play in front of such a big crowd. It was a beautiful crowd out there, so you’re always excited to be there,” the eternal fighter on the badminton court said.

For someone who has the reputation of beating the best on his day and in fact has many outstanding wins, Prannoy gives credit to a lot of people.

“Gopi bhayya has been there for about a decade now with me, always instilling that self-belief that I can do it. He is an amazing character. And the entire support staff including physios, doctors and nutrition experts have been constantly working with me, extending great support,” he said.

“So, the result in Malaysia last week was not just the work we have done in the last one week. It is a constant process. Well, Guru (R.M.V. Guru Sai Dutt who has been donning the role of a coach now) has been a great support for the last four months. He knows me as a player, what points I try to play. Importantly, you know me as a person also and that makes a huge difference. Having Guru at the back has been a big turning point in the last few months,” Prannoy said.

“To be honest, if you had asked me in 2017, I don’t think I would have told you that in 2023 I would be winning a Super 500. I want to thank all the coaches and the support staff. I think we have worked really, really hard and the result is showing,” said Prannoy, who was a member of the victorious Thomas Cup and also the Asia Mixed Team championship in Dubai recently.

How difficult is it to be motivated for so long? “Honestly, there are many factors. To be honest, in sport, everything keeps changing with time, people. Especially badminton, it is such a difficult sport. Things change very, very quickly. You have to be always in that zone. Mentally too very happy, to be doing the process, go through the everyday grind in training schedules, get all those things figured out to try to get better and better,” the champion shuttler said. “I think that’s what I have been doing in the last three to four years. More than trying to win, trying to probably improve myself on many sides. This has eased up the pressure of playing in the tournament. Before, there was a lot of pressure to perform and win with many champions around, training together,” he said.

“This actually gets to your head. And when you are not enjoying the process and think only of winning, that will not help. So, I just kept aside the winning factor, and have been trying to prove myself. If I have the mentality only to win, that will not help. In the last three years, keep that winning factor aside, prove myself showing the desired improvement in many critical spheres like my game, fitness and mental aspect,” Prannoy said.

What has been the biggest strength for you? “The experience I feel. Understanding my body more than anyone else. I know how my body shapes up. I respect the pain. Fortunately, the physios have always been around to make sure that I am fit and play the next game. It is, honestly, great to have them around,” World No. 9 said. What has been the biggest concern? “Getting old (with a big smile). Honestly it is a concern. But I am happy at this point. There might be results coming sometimes and at times you may not get them. So, I believe that the effort is going to get results, if not now, in the coming months. This is how I am trying to think on the court also, during tournaments,” Prannoy said.

What are the targets? “These things keep changing. The Malaysian Masters win came after a long time. Consistency is what I am looking for and trying to knock on the doors, find the answers to winning ways,” he said.

“Yes, the Olympics qualification for next year’s edition has begun. There have been tons of tournaments. But, again, you have to choose the right one for you, see if you are not feeling 100 percent then you have to back off and play the next one. Confidence is all about this or else tough to play. Only if the body is helping you, then only you can play,” Prannoy said.

“In this scenario, the World Championship (August) and the Asian Games (September) are big ones for sure. Still, many before that, there are quite a few tournaments. Essentially, I try to keep figuring out things, trying to keep improving, to be in a good mental state. Certainly, happy with the way things are happening around right for me,” he explained.

On family support, Prannoy says everyone back home is happy. “Especially, my mom. She has been totally engaged in the sport. More than me, she is watching all the other matches,” Prannoy said. “As a family they have gone through a lot but are always pushing me. So, this win (Malaysia Masters) gives them a lot of satisfaction also. They know how tough it is to win at this level. At the same time, they make sure I am playing freely without feeling the mental pressure,” he signed off to share a few lighter moments with teammates Parupalli Kashyap and Ashwini Ponnappa.

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