National Games champion B Sai Praneeth wants to break into Top 25 again

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a “disaster” and affected his performance, says B Sai Praneeth, who is now looking to reclaim his place in the top 25 in world rankings, following his maiden National Games gold.

Praneeth was consistently beating some of the big names in the game in 2017 and he topped it off by winning the Singapore Super Series crown 2017 and a World Championship bronze medal in 2019. But then pandemic was declared with lockdowns imposed globally, including India. Everything came to a standstill, including Praneeth’s career and soon from world No. 10 in 2019, his ranking plummeted to 41 in September this year.

“My career was on a high since 2017. I was on top of my game and was brimming with confidence too,” said Praneeth, who won the men’s badminton title in the 36th National Games here on Thursday, in a release. “But unfortunately, the lockdowns were imposed. It proved to be a huge disaster for me.” “My training came to a halt. I used to go to the stadium but I wouldn’t have any sparring partners. I was in a confused state of mind too. I didn’t know if I should train or play safe. I ended up sitting at home.” Not only did Praneeth lose momentum, his confidence also took a hit. A couple of injuries also didn’t help.

“I could not plan or train properly for the Olympics. After that, because of a sudden overload of training, I picked up injuries too,” said the 30-year-old, who couldn’t win a single match in Tokyo.

Praneeth was bothered by a recurring knee injury last year and also had a bout of COVID-19 early this year. The Hyderabad shuttler, however, feels he is back in his groove now. “It is all about self-belief and confidence. The win over Prannoy in the National Games will be a big boost for me going forward,” he said.

He shocked Kerala’s Prannoy, currently leading the Race to Guangzhou Rankings, in the Team Championship Finals. In the men’s singles finals, he downed Karnataka’s Mithun Manjunath for the title.

“My priority is to get back into the Top-25 in the world as early as possible. I have to work on my fitness so that I can play several tournaments,” he said. “My family is a big help and that motivates me to play again. When I see my son, I feel relieved and happy,” he signed off

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