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No regrets if I don’t win another individual title, I’ve Thomas Cup gold: HS Prannoy

NEW DELHI: Hoping to break his individual title drought that has stretched to five years, HS Prannoy says he will have no regrets even if it doesn’t come his way since he has a Thomas Cup gold in his trophy cabinet now.

The giant-killer’s tag has stayed for far too long for Prannoy, who scripted some of the most headline-grabbing victories over top stars such as Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan, Chen Long and Viktor Axelsen.

However, he could not weave the big wins together in a week’s time and even though he rose to a career-best ranking of world number 8 in 2018, the Indian’s last individual title win came way back in 2017, at the US Open Grand Prix Gold.

“See there will be some extraordinary players, who go on to win continuously. But there are others who have the potential and have big wins against big players but never been able to win something really big. I come in that category,” Prannoy told PTI during an interview.

“I know I haven’t won something really big, may be something is on the cards, it will come when it has to but even if it doesn’t, its okay because you know you are putting in the effort. I think I have been blessed to be in that Thomas Cup squad.”

The Kerala shuttler had come close to winning a title after reaching the Swiss Open Super 300 final in March this year.

Though Prannoy, currently ranked 23, couldn’t go the distance, his performance earned him a place in the Thomas Cup squad and he went on to play a pivotal role in India’s epic triumph by winning the decisive third singles against Malaysia and Denmark in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.

It was his win over Jun Hao Leung which helped India stun Malaysia, a five-time champions, and secure a first-ever medal in the Thomas Cup in 43 years.

“Being part of this squad, I could be part of that moment, could be part of that podium. I am lucky enough to get that feeling which no one else in the world can feel.”

While injuries are part of an athlete’s life, the 29-year-old’s progress in international badminton has also been affected by severe health issues.

When things were looking up on court in 2018, Prannoy was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease during the World Championships, which affected his training and performance.

Once he recovered from it, he tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020, the after-affects of which forced him to seek alternative treatment.

“Last few years I have learnt that things will be tough for you as a sportsperson. At times, in these years, I was comparing myself to others but then I realised that we need to acknowledge the times when you have done something good,” he said.

“I have been introspecting on all that and it really helped me to achieve that happiness. There are a lot of things which goes behind the things we do. I have been able to do that process happily in the last 3-4 years.”

Prannoy was also part of the Indian team that claimed its maiden gold in mixed event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“CWG was different because we knew it will start really from the semifinals. We knew there would be two big matches. Malaysia was looking strong, so we had to really focus on that match. So when we reached the semifinal we knew the world was watching,” he said.

“In Thomas Cup, nobody really kept us on the sidelines that these guys could also go on to win. The entire badminton world would have thought that they can create a few upsets but can never win the gold.

“So this win is important for the ecosystem of the sport. It is for the next generation of players to believe that it is possible. We need such big wins in constant gaps.”

Prannoy is not part of the 10-member Commonwealth Games squad with Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth making the cut due to their higher world ranking.

Asked if the Thomas Cup win will rub on to the players as they gear up for the Birmingham event, he replied in the positive.

“Yeah, from now on people will feel that we have a chance. In CWG, we are the defending champions and this time all are saying we are the favourites. But unless we go on to win it we won’t get the respect,” he signed off.