New Delhi: A fair amount of his time has been lost to injuries, but an unruffled Indian shuttler HS Prannoy says he knows how to bounce back and can already sense that something big is around the corner for him.
Ever since bursting on to the scene with a silver medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics, Prannoy has been often left on the sidelines due to injuries, affecting his training and thereby his progress.
He suffered a knee injury in 2011 just before the nationals, then again in 2012 which was followed by a back injury in 2012 which took more than half a year to heal. He reached the finals at the Tata Open the next year.
A series of semifinals at Bitburger, Syed Modi International, Macau and a final at Vietnam was followed by a maiden Grand Prix Gold win at Indonesia in 2014.
Another injury-marred year followed but he still managed to reach a career-best world ranking of 12. He recovered to win the 2016 Swiss Open but again sustained a toe injury at the Singapore Open and subsequently missed the Thomas Cup.
He was in rampaging form at the Premier Badminton League this year but injuries to his knee and toe once again came back to haunt him.
Asked if he is playing the best badminton of his career now, HS Prannoy said: "Best I am not sure, I believe I have a lot of capability and I can play at a much better level. Of course there have been restrictions on me since I had a lot of injuries. So I can't do some specific training due to those injuries."
Prannoy had to face criticism for not being consistent and one renowned coach even went on to say, "He will never be able to play singles as he was slow and he should shift to doubles".
"People may criticise saying that I have such a good game but I've not been able to be consistent. I feel they need to understand that there are so many injuries that we suffer, which they don't know about and each time to come back, train and reach top 20 is not easy," he said.
"Sometimes, you get de-motivated as to why so many injuries are happening but that is how it is, some have a lot of injuries and some have less. Look at Sameer, he too had a lot of injuries and he would have been a much better player. Injuries take away a lot of time," he added.
Prannoy, who clinched the 2014 Indonesia Open Grand Prix Gold, said he sometimes suffers from self-doubt during the first round of a tournament.
"For me the first round is really important. I always play a bit half-heartedly in the first round and doubt myself if I will be able to control the shuttle," he said.
"Once I crack the first round, if I am getting into the zone and really feel good about the conditions then I feel it could be my day. After I cross the pre-quarters, I get better, so that's how my game goes," he added.
The 2016 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold champion said after losing to Chen Long thrice, he doubted if he would ever be able to beat the Chinese.
"When I played him for first time, it was really tough and I thought I want to beat this guy and when I met at Singapore, he beat me 19-21 in the decider. Next week, I played him at China Open, he again beat me and I thought it would never happen," he said.
"Indonesia also had slow conditions and it was a 76 minute match. So over there to believe myself, and Chen Long was playing well, and to beat him was a good feeling. Lee Chong Wei was ordinary that day. He was better in the second game."
Prannoy said he really felt confident about his fitness when he was training ahead of the Indonesia Open.
"The confidence that fitness gives is completely different. I felt that after I left Malaysia and Singapore midway and I was training and trying not to get injured. I played at the ABC in China and again was back to training. It was the only time when I was feeling my body is good and I was raring to go, but that feeling doesn't happen all the time.
"Others don't need to worry about injuries. They can just concentrate on things on court. But I am happy with the way things are going now. I am happy the way I come back after each injury and I might not have won a tournament but I always believe something big will happen and when things do not go my way, I am patient enough to hang in there," he added.
Asked how he prepares during back-to-back tournaments, Prannoy said: "We don't do anything new during the tournament. It is all about polishing what you have, you have to ensure that endurance doesn't go down.
"We keep trying new shots so that if required you can use them. I have so many new shots in my game but I might not use them always and the thing is, you might forget if you don't practice. So you have to keep doing it in practice."
Talking about his trademark backhand smash, he said: "Back home with my dad, I used to work on these strokes on forehand and backhand. I used to think why my dad makes me do that but now I understand.
"There was one player in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) who used to play an extraordinary backhand. I was lucky enough to play against him and he helped me learn that."...