Having overcome his fair share of struggles to emerge as the best-placed Indian in the world rankings, all that HS Prannoy wants is to improve his consistency to give him more chances of winning that elusive international title.
Prannoy scripted a stellar run in 2022 as he regained his world No. 8 ranking from the 2019 lows of 34, riding on some fantastic performances throughout the year.
Prannoy, who battled through gastroesophageal reflux disease in 2018 and COVID-19 in 2020, played a pivotal role in India’s epic Thomas Cup win in May and also produced a runner-up finish at the Swiss Open Super 300, besides reaching the semifinals at the Indonesia Open Super 1000 and Malaysia Masters Super 500 event.
“The challenges were different at the start of 2022 than now. There was no expectations then but after a year there are expectations from fans and coaches, to win big tournaments. Personally, I have always kept goals really low,” Prannoy said on Twitter spaces on Tuesday.
“For me the important thing will be to focus on the process. How I can recover for next sessions, that’s how I am looking it now.”
Prannoy’s fine run in the World Tour events earned him a direct qualification to the season finale, the World Tour Finals for the first time in his career, and though he couldn’t make it to the knockout stage, he did notch up a stunning win over world No.1 Viktor Axelsen.
“Wining against Axelsen is a good confidence booster. I had little less match practice heading into World Tour Finals. I could feel that pressure but I was getting better and against Viktor I was able to take points in those tough situation.
“So overall it was a good tournament. And ending 2022 by beating Axelsen is always good. It is important to improve consistency and get into semifinals and finals and then a victory like this will be sweeter.” The new season will also witness the Olympic qualification period starting from May, and Prannoy said picking the right events will be crucial and he will look to push himself in the second half.
“It is tough to peak at the right time. You can probably peak for an Olympics where you have enough time to prepare. But it is not easy to prime for one event otherwise because world ranking are also high in the world tour events,” he said.
“For me, I’ll take as and how it comes. Probably just pick and choose right events and find time to train for 2-3 weeks because whenever I have trained well, I have been able to produce results.
“It is tough physically if you are playing 3-4 events so it is better to play 2 or at most 3 events if needed and if body is okay taking it. My planning is done till April-May. Post that there will be (a) lot of tournaments for Olympic qualifications. So first few months will try to back off from playing too many tournaments.” Prannoy registered a come-from-behind 22-24, 21-12, 21-18 victory over Lakshya Sen, ranked 10th, in an edgy opening-round contest to make a positive start at the Malaysia Open Super 1000 on Wednesday.
It was the sixth time that the two Indians were facing each other in world tour events.
“It’s really odd. You are travelling to biggest tournaments and you are running into your own teammate. I have faced him numerous times in the past. It’s been pretty much common in the last six month to be honest,” he said.
Asked if the process of draw needs to be addressed, Prannoy said, “I think so. There are a lot of tough first-round matches… I think there should be some rule change. If you are in top 10, there should be some advantage. You are working so hard through the year.
“I haven’t played against a lot of players like Lee Zii Jia, Kenta Nishimoto. I never run into them…it is pretty weird.” The 30-year-old from Kerala will next face Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo.