HS Prannoy Ends Title Jinx with Malaysia Super Series Win

Credit: BWF Media

It was 19-18 in the decider, and HS Prannoy, like he had done all match, went for the line. It was the perfect shot, or so it seemed until it was challenged. Was it a challenge in desperation? Could well have been because the young Chinese had just one challenge remaining. And as he was sitting in his chair hoping the shuttle would be called out, he saw something that was cruel. About 10 per cent of the shuttle was in, and all of a sudden, Prannoy had match point. At 20-18, he was serving for the match and the tournament.

Now, there was no stopping him. Prannoy closed it out with a fantastic cross-court which gave his opponent no chance, and for a second, he was in two minds about how to celebrate. He had waited years for this moment. He had come close time and again. Beaten one higher-ranked opponent after the other, and made multiple semi-finals. Answered a thousand questions on why he wasn’t able to get past the final hurdle. No more. Prannoy has finally broken the jinx, and was now Malaysia Masters Champion. His first Super Series title, and hopefully the first of many.

Prannoy is one of the nicest athletes you could come across. Someone who has done it the hard way. Having suffered injuries that would have forced many others to give up, Prannoy knows how difficult it is to achieve success. And grateful as well. He knows he isn’t young anymore, and that everything that he does and gets won’t come easy. And as a result, he works the hardest. Ask Gopi [Pullela Gopichand], and he will tell you how dedicated Prannoy is. “He has the game,” said Gopi. “Always did. It is about him staying injury-free, and being fit enough to play every day of the week during Super Series tournaments. And he has mastered that with hard work. On his day, he can beat anyone and this could be a major moment for him.”

With the Olympic qualification cycle underway, the win could not have come at a better time for Prannoy. Already enjoying the highest ranking of his career, he can now power on and aim higher. In a fluid field – Prannoy says, “Even the 30th-ranked can beat any of the top-five players on his day” – anything can happen, and he will be more aware of this than anyone else.

“I’m jusr really happy to win my first Super 500,” Prannoy told RevSportz. “Thanks to the entire support team. Gopi sir and all the coaches out there in Hyderabad, and Guru for guiding me the entire week. And the full team of physios and doctors and my own team of specialists from Bangalore. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

More than anyone, Gopu, who won the All England in 2001, knows how India tends to view the sport. “I am aware that our country moves from one Olympics to the other, and unless you win an Olympic medal, you aren’t considered a great,” he said. “Chirag [Shetty] and Satwik [Rankireddy] had an opportunity in Tokyo and missed out. For me, it is not really something devastating. What is important as a coach is how are they shaping up. How Prannoy is shaping up. If they are all fit, they will be tough for anyone to beat. They are all close to the very best, and will have a fair chance in the Asian Games and then in Paris in 2024.”

For Prannoy, this is a jinx broken. More mental than anything else. He always knew he had the game. And yet, come the semi-final stage, he would often lose close matches. That’s why this win was important. For self-belief more than anything else. He will now know that after starring in India’s Thomas Cup victory in 2022, he can also do it in Super Series competitions, and perhaps even the Asian Games and the Olympics.

Ask him, and he will tell you something very important and interesting. “Gopi Sir has never pushed me for results,” he said. “He is always insistent on the process. As long as I am playing well, he is happy. He knows that if I can string together a bunch of good performances, important wins are just a matter of time.”

In the last week in Malaysia, he did just that. He took out Chou Tien-chen of Chinese Taipei in a kind of revenge match from the Sudirman Cup, and thereafter continued the good work in the quarterfinal, semi-final and final.

Having played four matches which went to deciders – except the semi-final where his opponent pulled out because of injury – it is now evident that Prannoy does not get tired after long rallies. That he can beat any top player on his day, and has improved his temperament a few notches. Each of these things has happened because he has a robust process in place with Gopi by his side. He trains based on sports science. He plays long rallies, simulates match situations in training, and perfects particular strokes. That’s why he no longer gets flustered in match situations. And with his first Super Series win, Prannoy may well have turned a new leaf. For the sake of Indian badminton, all of us will hope so.

Also Read: “Monkey Finally off My Back”: Prannoy Savours First Super Series Win

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