“Always believed I’m a big-tournament player” – HS Prannoy

HS Prannoy
HS Prannoy (Source: Onmanaroma)

After a stellar year in 2023, when he established himself in the top 10 of badminton’s men’s singles rankings, HS Prannoy has endured a very tough start to 2024. Though he has clinched qualification for the Paris Olympics in July-August, persistent ill-health has hampered his progress this year. As he and his support team work to find a solution, Prannoy spoke to Boria Majumdar, editor-in-chief of RevSportz, about the crucial months that lie ahead, and in particular the defence of the Thomas Cup and the quest for an Olympic medal. Excerpts:

Boria: Olympic Qualification is finally done! It was expected, as you were brilliant in 2023, but couple of hiccups early this year due to health issues. So, Prannoy, can you tell viewers what is the current update physically and mentally?

Prannoy: Little better, from Jan and Feb. But, will not say that it is totally under control. The entire team is trying to get it sorted as quickly as possible. We are still figuring out what to do, but yes, 15-20 per cent better than where I was in Jan or Feb. Hopefully, in coming days, I will get better.

Boria: Thomas Cup, and three months down the line, it’s Paris. Thoughts?

Prannoy: It’s exciting not only for players and fans, as we are going into the tournament as the defending champion. We are looking at a very good team and Lakshya [Sen] getting his form, it’s a good thing for the entire team. It gives us much more chance while getting into a competition like Thomas Cup. Thomas Cup is such an event where upsets keep coming and it’s a tricky competition. As a team, we are really looking forward.

Boria: Thoughts on Paris?

Prannoy: Hardly four months away from Paris, and a lot of work to be done. Things have changed big time and, probably, not a good few months for me in 2024 so far. It is very important for me to find that form and basically, It is a challenge for me getting into Paris. [There are] five to six tournaments left, and my focus would be on that. But extremely happy that I could qualify for the first time.

Boria: Is there anything that you have planned with your support team for the next three months?

Prannoy: We have not thought much about it. The plans are coming after two to three months, to be honest. After the Thomas Cup, we might sit and get plans ready for next set of tournaments. But, for me, it is really important to be in the match zone always and we would like to be in India itself. Opportunities of playing high-intensity matches will be key going towards Paris, because it will help me to be in the right frame of mind to play matches at such a high level. So, we have to sit down with Gopi sir and the entire team, but I want to train here in India itself because I want to be with my family right before going for Paris.

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Boria: How much is it in your mind?

Prannoy: Going there and playing will be much easier to be honest. Few months before that will be hectic mentally as, right from your family, there will be expectations. Next few months, I have to be extremely careful that I do not overthink about this particular tournament. I have always believed that I am a big-tournament player and have managed to keep my calm at bigger events.

Boria: From a mental health perspective, can you tell me a little bit more?

Prannoy: It is tough mentally because there are days where I know that I cannot play really well even before I go on to the court. So, to accept that and accept those defeats is tough. All England was much tougher, and post that tournament, probably took much longer for me to make a comeback. There are more bad days than good days for me. There are days when I do not like to play also. I do not go to gym or any kind of sessions, because what is the point of all these if I cannot control the whole thing? But the only hope is to continue, and we are working on finding the right foods, which are working for my body. [It’s a] tough process mentally as there are days where you do not feel like going into training. But I hope things get settled a little bit more sooner.

HS Prannoy
HS Prannoy (PC: X)

Boria: How do you look at the Olympic qualification? First, you’ve qualified, and one box is ticked. Is there pressure that, now I have confirmed my ticket, I have to perform a level up to show the world at that stage?

Prannoy: There are days when you say to yourself: ‘Boss, this is your chance, final chance maybe to prove to everyone’. But, some other days, I kind of look back and say what if it does not happen? There are lot of things which are under your control and a lot of things which are not. The only thing under your control is to perform well and put that 100 per cent into what you are able to do. I believe that if something is stored for you, definitely it will come.

Boria: Knowing the conditions, court, kind of drifts or slowness, will it help you?

Prannoy: I do not think that it kind of helps. Does not matter how the conditions are, and if that would have been a factor, then I should have performed and gone far atleast once in All England. I have been playing in All England for 11-12 years, and by now, I should have known the conditions. If I am in very good physical shape, the conditions will not matter.

Boria: Do you visualise it in your subconscious mind?       

Prannoy: No, something will not definitely happen if I visualise. So, I have stopped doing that. So, if it happens, it will happen.

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