Prannoy’s World Title Tilt Runs Out of Puff Against Relentless Vitidsarn

Source: Badminton Photo

Thirty-one is an age when an athlete tends to be on the downward slope. In a game like badminton, which demands high levels of fitness, speed, strength and stamina, a player of that age is called a veteran. Usually, most of them achieve their best well before reaching that stage. Those who surpass their best after that are exceptions.

Despite his defeat against Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the badminton World Championship semi-finals, HS Prannoy remains that exception. One can say that the bronze he had to settle for was India’s ninth in the history of the competition. There is nothing unique about it, other than the fact that the 31-year-old Prannoy ensured at least one Indian finished on the podium at this event for the 10th successive time.

Saying that will be right, because it’s factually correct. At the same time, it would be wrong because this bronze following an 21-18, 13-21, 14-21 loss against the World No. 3, who is nine years younger, is different from most of the other bronze medals clinched by India in the past. This was as heroic an effort as one could come across, considering the odds Prannoy surmounted.

This has actually been his year of self-discovery. A beaten quarter-finalist in the last two World Championships and an improved performer in the last year or so, the player born in Kerala was not short on motivation. Whether his body and mind could sustain the stress and strain was to be seen. The defeat against last year’s silver medallist notwithstanding, Prannoy showed what he had in the tank was enough to make the best of players sit up and take notice.


This bronze medal should not be viewed in isolation. It is a reward for the continued hard work he put in to achieve a career-best world ranking of seven earlier this year. Even now, he is the best-ranked Indian at ninth. The year also saw him clinch a maiden Super 500 title, and lose in the final of another. He gave his best at the World Championship and beat Loh Kean Yew, the 2021 winner, and Viktor Axelsen, the reigning champion, in three-game matches in the last two rounds.

Vitidsarn had also prevailed in three-game affairs in his last two outings, but age, freshness and that extra bit of energy tilted the balance in his favour in another match that went the distance. And don’t forget he is one of the brightest young stars around, having beaten Axelsen, the world No. 1, in the Super 750 India Open final in January. Prannoy held the edge in the second game at 5-1, but once the Thai caught up at 6-6 and took the lead, the Indian was chasing the game for the rest of the match.

It was obvious even to the uninitiated. In spite of his best efforts, Prannoy’s movements started getting slower as the match progressed, especially during the long rallies, and his accuracy levels dipped. His body must also have felt a bit sore and the joints stiff. Other than in patches, he was not in the contest in the third game. He got within a point of the three-time former world junior champion at 7-8, but Vitidsarn took complete control at this stage and ran away with it.

Prannoy, still, doesn’t have to think about what could have been. What he made happen and what has been should remain an inspiration for those who want to extend India’s medal-winning run at the World Championships. It was fun as long as it lasted.

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