Making a comeback after CWG disappointment was very tough, says HS Prannoy
"What defines us is how well we rise after we fall"- Zig Ziglar
When the Indian badminton contingent left for their quest to fetch glory in the Commonwealth Games 2018, HS Prannoy, the second-highest ranked Indian men’s singles player was considered a big bet.
However, destiny had some other plans for the 25-year-old shuttler, as he suffered a heartbreaking defeat against Rajeev Ouseph in the bronze medal match and thus failed to lay his hands on what would have been his first CWG medal.
This was definitely a bitter pill to swallow for Prannoy as one could sense the disappointment from his apology letter to the fans where he admitted that he ‘choked when it mattered’ and could not live up to the expectations.
However, it is when the chips are down that the champions pull off something incredible.
Soon he took the defeat to his chin, decided to push aside this setback and geared up for the next challenge.
Eventually, not even a month later, the 25-year-old returned with a bronze medal at the Asian Badminton Championship. And as a result, he rose two rungs to reach the career-best eighth spot in the latest men's singles rankings.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Prannoy spoke about achieving career-best ranking, disappointment at CWG, Bronze at the Asian Championship, the road ahead for him and a lot more.
SK: First and foremost, career-high ranking. No. 8 in the world. What does that mean to you?
Prannoy: Well, it's definitely a big thing for me. For the last couple of years, I have been trying really hard to get into the single digit.
However, I wasn't able to do so because of injuries and other issues. So getting to No. 8 actually means a lot to me.
And hopefully, over the next few months, I will perform even better and make it to the top five.
SK: You missed out on a medal at the Commonwealth Games 2018 (CWG) quite narrowly. How much of a disappointment was that?
Prannoy: To be honest, there was a lot of disappointment on that particular day. However, I made sure that it doesn't stick to my mind for a longer time.
I knew that there were a lot of tournaments for me after the CWG. So it was really important for me to keep the disappointment away and start working again.
Of course, everyone was expecting a medal from my side and I really regret not being able to play well on that particular day.
But, eventually, I have realised that it was just one bad day and sometimes things like these happen in sports.
SK: What got you going after that loss at the CWG?
Prannoy: Well, a lot of credit goes to Gopi sir ( Head coach, Pullela Gopichand) who made sure I was alright after the loss.
Some really motivating words helped me recover and thus I was able to concentrate on my training for the Asian Championship.
Of course, coming back and training once again was definitely a tough job. However, I made sure that I quickly got over the disappointment and probably that one week of training helped a lot.
SK: At one point in time in the QF against Son Wan Ho at the Asian Championship, you were just two points away from losing the game. After that, you staged a brilliant comeback. As a player how difficult is it to control the nerves in such situations?
Prannoy: To be honest, it is very difficult. And that is something which I was not able to manage well over the last couple of years or so.
I had lost a lot of crunch matches in the past. Even in the All England Badminton Championship, I lost a really close match in the quarter-final.
So it's always tough but on some occasions, you are more open and confident to try new stuff.
And against Son Wan Ho, it was one of those days when I told myself that it was okay if I lose the game.
But, I need to try some strokes at that point in time. And eventually, it worked out for me.
SK: Even in the Semi-finals, you had a very close contest against Chen Long. There were a lot of long rallies and both of you displayed great athleticism. How do you look back at that game?
Prannoy: I actually played quite well in that game. The quality of the match was really good. Probably a lot of unforced errors when the game was going really close, made the difference eventually.
When I came back and saw the match once again, I felt that it was really tough for him to score the points and it was only when I was giving the unforced errors that he was able to score. So altogether, I was really happy with the way I played on that particular day.
SK: You have gone through a lot of injuries in your career so far. But you have always bounced back strongly. What kind of mental change you had to make to deal with it?
Prannoy: Actually, it has been a process over the last few years or so. And I am glad that I am getting better with every passing year.
It's always tough to avoid injuries and I’ve started to accept them now. You can’t stress over them much or get into a negative mindset and make things even worse.
That has always been one area on which I have worked very hard. And probably that's the reason I have been able to come back stronger every time.
I have gone through a lot of injuries and pain since the last few years. And to be honest, it has not been easy to deal with it.
It's pretty easy for people to criticise when you do not perform well. But as an athlete, only I am aware of the amount of pain that I have been through for so many years now. Even in the last one year a lot of things have not gone in the manner which I wished them to.
However, I am happy about the fact that every time I came back to the court, I have been able to put all those things behind me and concentrate on my game. I have pushed myself very hard in each and every practice session and I will keep doing so in the years to come.
SK: Is there a particular fitness regime that you follow these days?
Prannoy: As such, there is no particular fitness regime. However, I am working with a trainer who is really good at strength and conditioning. That is something which needs to be really perfect in terms of preparing for the tournaments.
SK: Looking at the last few years, they have been the golden era for Indian Badminton. Saina's Olympic Bronze in London 2012, Sindhu's silver at the Rio Olympics, Srikanth becoming the first-ever Indian to be crowned the top-ranked player, seven medals at the CWG 2018. And now you have reached your career-best ranking. So what do you, personally, make of this?
Prannoy: Over the last few years, there has been a lot of improvement in Indian badminton. And a lot of credit goes to players like Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth. They have performed quite consistently in big tournaments over the last three to four years. And that has made a huge difference in World Badminton.
They have been a great motivation for all the players. And as a result, a lot of youngsters have come into the frame. So in the next couple of years, I am sure that we will come up with an even stronger contingent.
SK: And finally, now after a successful campaign at the Asian Championship, What is the road ahead for you?
Prannoy: There are a lot of tournaments coming up for me. I am looking forward to winning medals at a World Championship or a Superseries.
Hopefully, I will qualify for the Asian games too. As of now, we are really looking forward to the Thomas Cup.
That is one tournament where we have not done very well as a team in the past. This year everyone is looking in good shape, especially the double's team (Chirag and Satwik) are also in good form. So hopefully we will be able to put up a good show.