Badminton

Defending Thomas Cup Title Will Be Very Tough, Says Seasoned Indian Shuttler HS Prannoy

H S Prannoy was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease during the 2018 World Championships, a chronic disorder that causes symptoms like heartburn, abdominal and chest pain, and inflammation of vocal chords

PRANNOY HS/X
H S Prannoy played a crucial role in India's win in Thomas Cup in 2022. Photo: PRANNOY HS/X
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Seasoned Indian shuttler H S Prannoy has revealed that he has been battling a chronic gastrointestinal disorder for the past four months which has not just hampered him physically but also taken a mental toll as he had fought these health issues not so long ago. (More Badminton News)

Prannoy was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease during the 2018 World Championships, a chronic disorder that causes symptoms like heartburn, abdominal and chest pain, and inflammation of vocal chords.

Prannoy's training and performance were affected by it in 2019-2020 but he had recovered from it and the after-effects of COVID-19 to slowly and steadily regain his place in the top echelons of men's singles. But he revealed that the he hasn't been all that well for past four months once again.

"A health issue has been bothering me for the last four months. That has kind of taken a toll in the last four months, mentally and physically for me, to be in the right physical state which I think I was in the last two years," World No.9 Prannoy told PTI during a free-wheeling interview.

"But I think it's all part and parcel of this whole career that there can be a lot of times that we are feeling good. If you're not consistent in what you're doing, then you can take a hit and go back to where you were before.

"It is the same gut issue which had cropped up in 2019. We will get better in the coming months. So yeah, I just need to be a bit more patient," he said.

The 31-year-old played a pivotal role in India's epic Thomas Cup win in 2022. He went on to claim a bronze medal at the World Championships and the Asian Games, won his maiden super 500 title at Malaysia Masters and then finished runner-up at the Australian Open in a memorable 2023.

However, this season, Prannoy had just one semifinal finish -- at India Open super 750 -- and made a series of first-round exit.

Prannoy, who has qualified for the Paris Olympics, looked in good touch at the Asia badminton Championships in Ningbo, China when he outwitted China's Lu Guang Zu in a marathon 90-minute opening-round match.

"It gives a little bit of satisfaction that a lot of things which you're working on came good. I think those kind of wins give that kind of confidence.

"To even think that you lasted a 90-minute match against somebody who has been really strong and who I've never beaten also gives good confidence," he said.

"From a whole game side of it, I think probably after a few months, again, I felt that kind of aggression in the game and I could kind of, be there for good 90 minutes physically also."

"Defending Thomas Cup title will be very tough"

The image of a gritty Prannoy battling through pain after twisting his ankle during the deciding third singles against Denmark's Rasmus Gemke in the Thomas Cup semifinals is still fresh in badminton lovers' mind.

His sensational performance was one of the reasons that India could lift the trophy for the first time. Two years later, Prannoy will once again take centrestage as India aims to defend the title.

"It will be tough this year, there are very tough teams this time. Based on current form, there are lots of teams with three strong singles and two doubles like China, Denmark, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Indonesia.

"All of these teams have players who have been in form for the last three-four months, playing big tournament finals," the man from Thiruvananthapuram said.

India have been handed a tough draw in Thomas Cup as they are clubbed with last year's runner-up and record 14-time winners Indonesia, Thailand and England in Group C.

"...we have somebody like Satwik-Chirag, who is a strong doubles pair, then Lakshya also hitting form at the right time. So, it will give us an extra boost but I think a lot of ties will depend on first singles and third singles and second men's doubles.

"The Arjun-Dhruv pair has been playing well in the last few months, so we are also hopeful that they can also get us a few wins," he said.

He acknowledged the pressure that will be on him.

"From the team perspective, there will be a lot of expectations on my first singles because a 1-0 start will put us in a good position but overall it will be very tough to defend the title.

"Each and every round, even from the group stages, will be tough. It will go down to how well as a team and enjoy as a team."

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