The last few months have been a topsy-turvy affair for B Sai Praneeth. After reaching one of the landmarks of his career with qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, things started to go awfully wrong for Sai Praneeth.
The maiden Olympics for Sai Praneeth turned out to be a forgettable experience as he failed to win both his league matches against lowly ranked opponents. Surprising back-to-back defeats meant he couldn’t qualify for the knock-out stage of the quadrennial Games. Agus Dwi Santoso of Indonesia has accompanied Sai Praneeth as a coach at the Tokyo Olympics.
After a disappointing showing at the Tokyo Games, one expected a better performance from Sai Praneeth in the Sudirman Cup and Thomas Cup.
However, the poor run continued for Sai Praneeth in the team events as he failed to live up to expectations. The world No. 16 shuttler barely managed to win his matches against minnows Netherlands and Tahiti but faltered against Denmark in the crucial encounter.
Sai Praneeth reached the lowest point when he was knocked out in the very first round in the Denmark Open in Odense. In an all-India opening encounter, Sai Praneeth lost in straight games against Kidambi Srikanth.
I am disappointed with my recent performance and feeling down: Sai Praneeth
29-year-old Sai Praneeth is feeling dejected from his series of disappointing results. The Hyderabadi termed it one of the lowest phases of his career.
“It is not a good feeling when you lose continuously. Obviously I am disappointed with the recent results. It was a below par performance from me. It hurts more when people have more expectations from me. I am low on confidence right now because I was not able to perform to the best of my abilities,” said Sai Praneeth.
Sai Praneeth, the bronze medal winner of the 2019 BWF World Championships, has been battling back pain for the last six months. It happened because of the extra efforts put into training over a period of time.
“Many people don’t know but I have been facing this back pain issue for the last few months. It is certainly affecting my game. I am not able to produce my best because the pain is there all the time. I carried this pain during the Olympics and thereafter. It is not an injury. It is just a pain but it is certainly hampering my movements on the court,” said Sai Praneeth.
Sai Praneeth, a trainee at Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, is taking a break from participating in the tournaments. He wants to sort this issue out before competing in tournaments again.
“I was supposed to play in a few tournaments but returned to India after the Denmark Open. I want to take a break now. I am concentrating hard to strengthen my back and resolve this back issue once and for all. I am working with my physiotherapist on how to do strengthening exercises to build my back. Although I have resumed my practice a couple of days ago after coming back to Hyderabad, the focus is more on strengthening aspects,” said Sai Praneeth.
Arjuna Award recipient Sai Praneeth is targeting the Indonesian Masters for his revival. The BWF World Tour Super 750 tournament will be held in Bali, Indonesia from November 16 to 21, 2021.
“There are still three weeks to go until the Indonesia Masters. I want to train well and get refreshed for the battle again. I am working with my coach Gopichand Sir and support staff on how best I can utilize this time to prepare myself. I hope to use this period to analyze my past performance. I know it’s just a matter of a few wins and I will regain my lost confidence. Hopefully Indonesia Masters, I will achieve my target,” said Sai Praneeth.
Gopi Sir is helping me overcome my bad phase with his guidance: Sai Praneeth
Sai Praneeth has a strong bond with chief national coach Pullela Gopichand. For Sai Praneeth, Gopichand is more than a mentor. During this tough time, Sai Praneeth is relying on his mentor to pull him through the crisis.
“I have been speaking regularly with Gopi Sir. He is just as disappointed with my lack of form. However, being a coach and former ace player, he knows every player goes through this type of tough phase in their career. According to him I am just a couple of big wins away from regaining my old touch. He believes that I can still deliver at the top for a few more years. I am optimistic about changing the fortunes soon,” said Sai Praneeth.
Critics have been gunning for Sai Praneeth’s blood ever since his dismal showing in the Olympics, the Sudirman Cup, Thomas Cup and Denmark Open. The time has come for Sai Praneeth to answer his critics with an improved performance in the next few tournaments.