However, as luck would have it, Sai Praneeth tested COVID-19 positive and had to pull out of the season-opening India Open Super 500 tournament on Monday.
This is the latest setback for Sai, whose progress on the international circuit has been hampered by a back injury and continuous pain since the mega quadrennial Games.
Just as he was looking to overcome it and focus on the Indian leg of the BWF calendar, the pandemic made his task even worse.
Under the watchful eyes of chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, Sai Praneeth has trained hard over the last few months in Hyderabad. The 29-year-old is understandably disappointed to have lost the opportunity to play at the India Open.
“Of course I am very disappointed as I have prepared well for the last three weeks for the India Open," Sai Praneeth told Sportskeeda on Monday. "It was a good opportunity to perform well and gain some confidence back but yes I can’t do anything about this."
Sai Praneeth was given the second seeding and was determined to arrest his series of poor results at the India Open. The former World Championships bronze medalist was slated to meet Spain’s Luís Enrique Peñalver, ranked 64th in the world, in the first round. However, he tested positive in Hyderabad a day before traveling to New Delhi.
"Luck is not favoring me these days" - Sai Praneeth
Sai Praneeth blamed luck for his below par performance in the last few months. After back pain troubled him for several months, the pandemic added to his miseries.
“Luck is not favoring me these days," rued Sai Praneeth. "I was in good touch in practice and felt good about my game. But in the RT-PCR test I found positive which hampered my plans. I have had a cold and cough for the last couple of days. I am isolating at home."
Sai Praneeth is slated to play in the Syed Modi India International 2022 World Tour Super 300 tournament which will be played in Lucknow from January 18-23.
However, he is still not sure whether he will be able to play in Lucknow.
“I will have to wait for at least a week before testing again," he said. "I am not sure whether I can play at the Syed Modi tournament or not because it is next week only. I will take the call later depending on my recovery."
After the Syed Modi International, there is another international tournament in India, the Odisha Open, which will begin at Cuttack on January 25. But Sai won't participate in it.
“I am not playing in the Odisha Open," he said. "It is an important year and there is hardly any time to regain fitness. I hope I can get back to court quickly. I want to do well this year after a not-so-good last year."
Sai Praneeth and his wife Swetha were blessed with a baby boy on November 14, 2021. The shuttler was playing for India in the Sudirman Cup and Thomas Cup in Denmark when he became a father for the first time.