B Sai Praneeth won the 2015 Seniors Nationals and after that has been battling with a bout of injuries. The 22-year-old Hyderabad lad, who has won two international singles titles – 2010 Iran Challenge and 2012 Bahrain Challenge crowns – is now looking to stay injury-free and break into the top-25 by year-end. Praneeth, who is ranked 43rd in the world, spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q How satisfying was it winning the 2015 Senior National Badminton Championship singles title?
Well, the Senior Nationals is a big event in India and winning it was quite special. I had lost the opening game to Sameer Verma but fought back to win the next two games and won the title. I had finished runners-up in the 2012 Senior Nationals losing to Sameer’s brother Sourabh in the final. I had been semifinalist twice before and so was keen to win it this time around.
Q You have been battling with a bout of injuries since the start of 2015 and have played in only three international tourneys.
I sustained a foot injury, and I played in the Senior National Badminton Championship carrying that injury. Actually, because I went the distance my injury got worse and I had to take a three-week break before I played in the Swiss Open, Indian Open and Singapore Open tournaments.
Q You were ranked 56 at the start of 2014 and you are ranked in the top-40. How would you assess your performance during this period?
Injuries have really affected my performance last year. Some injury or the other would crop up and I had to skip tournaments. It was like playing a tournament, and then taking a break for my injuries and then again playing. I had suffered an ankle injury and then had sustained a shin injury. Of course, injuries are not in your control, I think I have sorted out the injury issues of 2014.
Q Why is that the Indian men’s singles players are consistently doing well (India always had 5-6 guys in the top-50 in the last two years or so), and yet do not attract corporate sponsors like woman shuttler Saina Nehwal?
I don’t know but I feel strongly about it. India has three players in the top-20 and at least five to six players in the top-50. Our men shuttlers deserve to be rewarded by the corporate houses for our performances. I hope corporate houses reward our men shuttlers.
Q How much has the Indian Badminton League helped Indian badminton?
Badminton craze has gone up in the country but I’m not sure why the IBL was not held in 2014. This year, the IBL is slated to be held, but the dates are not yet confirmed.
Q Do you think that shuttlers from countries like China, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Denmark fear the presence of Indian shuttlers on the world stage?
Of course, they know India are a strong badminton force. We have five-six guys in the top-50 and don’t think any other country have so many players in the top-50.
Q What are the goals you have set for yourself?
I want to win tournaments likes Grand Priz Gold or Super Series this year and break into the top-25 by 2015-end. I had reached a ranking of 36 in 2013.
Q What are the improvement areas you are focusing on?
I need to work on speed and strength as well as stay injury-free as I lost out a lot last year and early 2015 due to a spate of injuries.
Q You have been training at the Gopichand Academy since 2005. How much have you learned from him as Coach?
It’s difficult to describe it in words. Gopi Sir is a hard-working coach, who attends all our training sessions and is constantly updating himself with the coaching stuff tactically. I owe a lot to him.
Q What are the forthcoming tournaments you are taking part?
I playing in a national-level ranking tournament in Bengaluru this week and then till June I won’t be featuring in any international tournaments. I will be training hard during this period and get even fitter. I may play in the US and Canadian Open tourneys in June.