Stung by COVID-19’s long tail, HS Prannoy has had to figure out ways to stay sharp for the demands of top-level badminton.
The Indian was afflicted with Covid in November 2020, but its aftereffects have lingered on. One of the peculiarities of the infection was its effect on the lining of the lung that affected him during matches and training; medication wasn’t effective, and so Prannoy had to look at alternate ways of healing, such as special breathing exercises. The main challenge for him was to find experts who could guide him.
Given these circumstances, the Indian had much to celebrate after entering the third round of the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021 beating Liew Daren. Recent weeks have given room for optimism, particularly after he beat Viktor Axelsen to make the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters.
“I had to find my own solutions. I had to go places, take flights, meet people, find what’s working not working, spend money,” said Prannoy. “It’s not just time consuming but mentally it’s tough. You’re trying everything on court, off court, but you’re not in a position to play.
“Covid happened last November. I went on to meet doctors, I met a specialist in September. He said we’ve ruled out everything, there is no muscle related issue. It’s just Covid, it’s a slight lining on the wall of the lungs that got inflamed. It was hurting every time (during training).
“I’m trying out breathing exercises as medication isn’t recommended. Now it’s slightly better. Beating Viktor at any time is great, because he’s extremely consistent, and hasn’t been losing many matches. Playing a long match was very satisfying, so you think that what you’re doing is working, and that gives extra motivation.”
After beating Ng Ka Long Angus in a long first round match, the Indian had a quicker second round, against Liew Daren, and was happy with the way he had handled the mental challenges of playing the Malaysian.
“It was really hard for me to stay focused for the entire match because I knew there would be patches when Daren is going to play extremely well, so it was important for me to mentally not fight back against those spells because I knew they would come. So that was the key today, and happy with the way mentally I was on the go today.
“It’s important to keep shuttles in play, especially conditions like here where the shuttles are good, you can lift, and it’s important to not give easy points in the first two-three strokes. I knew physically I was up there.”
Prannoy is due to face either Rasmus Gemke or Luis Enrique Penalver for a place in the quarterfinals.
“Matches are going to get tougher and tougher. It’s important to focus on recovery and the game will take care of itself. I had a bad back injury during the European season; now I’m feeling good since Indonesia. I have a lot of confidence post Indonesia. The first match was long and tiring and that gave me a lot of confidence.”