Around two weeks back, HS Prannoy was preparing to take part in the Hyderabad Open. Having not qualified for the World Championships, the shuttler from Kerala was gearing up for other tournaments on the World Tour.
A bit of luck changed those plans—former world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and current world No 3 Shi Yuqi of China pulled out of the August 19-25 tournament in Basel, forcing the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to send a late invite to the 27-year-old Indian.
Prannoy made it count, and how. In the second round of the men’s singles on Tuesday, he took down five-time world champion Lin Dan of China.
The Indian took a little more than an hour to dispose the 11th seeded Chinese 21-11, 13-21, 21-7 to notch his third victory in five meetings against the two-time Olympic champion. Prannoy’s victory also brought about Lin Dan’s earliest exit from the World Championships.
“It (the invite) came out of the blue,” Prannoy said over the phone after the win. “I had been playing many tournaments in the last month or two. Had I known I would be playing the World Championships I wouldn’t have been playing all these events.”
Prannoy’s results haven’t been great of late, losing in the initial rounds of tournaments. This and the sudden call-up for the Worlds prompted the shuttler to bring about some urgent changes to his game.
“Earlier we were concentrating a lot on endurance but decided to change that,” he said. “It was playing under continuous pressure that I needed to work upon. The last couple of months I had been having trouble losing early in the tournaments. With pressure endurance comes naturally. So after discussing with Gopi sir and the other coaches, changes were made to my training programme where I was training under a lot of pressure.”