Struggling with form and a nagging back issue, India’s B Sai Praneeth is desperate to get some wins under his belt to regain his confidence on the tour as he gears up for next week’s Thomas Cup and Uber Cup Finals. The rescheduled men’s and women’s team tournaments will be held from October 9 to 17 at Aarhus, Denmark.
Praneeth had clocked a lot of hours to prepare for the Olympics, but his campaign didn’t go according to plan as he failed to win a single group match in Tokyo, returning empty handed. He also suffered a loss in the only singles match that he played at the Sudirman Cup in Vantaa, Finland.
Up against China’s Shi Yuqi, Praneeth lost in straight games as India suffered a 0-5 defeat in their Group A match to crash out of the quarterfinals race.
“I am training well but I really don’t know what is happening on court. I just need a couple of wins to get that confidence back ahead of the important events,” Praneeth, the 2019 World Championships bronze medallist, told PTI.
Talking about India’s campaign at the Thomas Cup, Praneeth said: “India has a strong team for Thomas Cup. Earlier, we used to depend on three singles for a win. It was tough to make it if we lose one but we have good doubles team now, so till quarterfinal it looks good.”
The Hyderabad shuttler revealed that he had developed a back stiffness few days before the Tokyo Games, but he didn’t put the blame on his fitness for the losses.
“I had developed a back pain just four days before the Olympics due to overload, so I played with a bit of pain but that is not the reason why I lost. I lost mostly because of pressure,” Praneeth made an honest assessment.
“I was positive, very confident and fit ahead of the Olympics but then some things kept happening, which affected me negatively. I could feel the tension on the court.
“I am fine now but I need to keep doing strengthening exercises for my back or else it will become stiff again. Working hard on my game, training and taking care of my body – that’s what is in my hands, so really need some wins.”
While PV Sindhu excused herself after a hectic Olympic campaign, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy also missed out after the former pulled his abs muscle, leaving Praneeth as the only shuttler from the Olympic team to play in Finland.
“Sudirman Cup and Thomas Cup are important team events, then there is Denmark Open and French Open. Many events have been cancelled due to COVID-19, so we hardly played individual tournaments, so I am looking forward to some match time.”
The Thomas and Uber Cup Finals will be followed by Denmark Open (October 19-24) and French Open (October 26-31). Praneeth said he can’t afford to skip events as he needs to maintain his ranking ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games.
“You can’t miss events as there are no events happening later. If you miss then later it could be a problem. We have commonwealth Games and everything is related to ranking,” said the 29-year-old, who is currently ranked 15 in the world.
After the French Open, there is a two-week window before he heads to Indonesia for back-to-back events, and will end the season with the World Championships in Huelva, Spain in December.
“The schedule is hectic as I will have to play back-to-back tournaments but will have to manage,” he signed off.
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