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'Giant killer becomes giant'- Finally, HS Prannoy delivers on the big stage

HS Prannoy won a bronze medal at the BWF World Championships. It is India's only medal from the 2023 edition and the 14th overall.

Giant killer becomes giant- Finally, HS Prannoy delivers on the big stage

HS Prannoy salutes the hostile home crowd after beating Denmark's Viktor Axelsen at the 2023 BWF World Championships


Pritish Raj

Updated: 27 Aug 2023 9:13 AM GMT

If you are an Indian badminton fan, here is a scenario for you to imagine: India's top male singles shuttler is playing in the World Championships quarter-final against the reigning World and Olympic champion, in front of his home crowd and is trailing by one game.

What do you expect? The world champion is to win the game and end Indian hopes, right? That is the script most of the time for Indian badminton, so close yet so far.

But on Friday, 25th August 2023, HS Prannoy had something else on his mind - history.

The 31-year-old bounced back from a game down against world champion Viktor Axelsen in the quarter-finals to defeat him 13-21, 21-15, 21-16, in 68 minutes.

With this win, HS Prannoy confirmed his first-ever World Championships medal at the age of 31, and he did it by taking out the best in the world.

Three-fold story of World Championships medal

HS Prannoy has been the most consistent Indian male shuttler in the past three years but doesn't have much accolades to show for it.

While Kidambi Srikanth has a silver medal at the Worlds, and Lakshya Sen has CWG gold, worlds bronze, and All England silver to show, Prannoy was waiting for that one medal.

One of India's Thomas Cup heroes, HS Prannoy reached the quarter-finals of the 2021 World Championships despite struggling with multiple issues including funding and COVID-19.

He didn't win any medal in the 2021 edition but showed enough grit in his quarter-final where he defeated higher-ranked Rasmus Gemke (Denmark) and Ng Ka Long Angus (Hong Kong).

2022 looked like the year for HS Prannoy as he moved up in the rankings and played a crucial role in India's historic victory in the Thomas Cup, winning all his games.

Come the World Championships, Prannoy was put in the same half as Lakshya Sen and Japanese shuttler Kento Momota. He defeated both but lost in the quarter-finals to Zhao Jun Peng of China with visible discomfort in his knee.

The 2022 World Championships looked like a missed opportunity for HS Prannoy and the question started coming up: 'When will HSP win a major title?'

HS Prannoy started the year 2023 as India's top-ranked male shuttler but took some time to gear up for the circuit. In May, HS Prannoy won his first-ever BWF Super 500 title at Malaysia Masters after defeating Weng Hong Yang.

While it ended his long wait for a title, another question was how consistently he could win at the international circuit. He reached another final at the Australian Open but lost to the same shuttler he beat at the Malaysia Masters, Weng Hong Yang.

When the 2023 draw for the World Championships came, the possible Viktor Axelsen - HS Prannoy clash in quarters indicated another heartbreaking quarter-final journey.

But he had something else in mind.

A tale of never giving up

For long-time Indian badminton fans, HS Prannoy has been a story of what-ifs. He will face the best players, even toy with him but in the end, won't cross the finish line.

Be it Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, or Viktor Axelsen, if there is one man who has troubled them and got past them, that is HS Prannoy.

"I have done well consistently. I just need to improve the finishing bit and grab the scorelines such as 18 or 19 points. I am working on it and I think the results will come in a few months," HS Prannoy had told The Bridge one week before winning the Malaysia Masters.

The belief and perseverance to do it every time he gets on the court has been one of the biggest reasons for his turnaround at the age of 31 when usually badminton players take the tag of the veteran.

After defeating Viktor Axelsen, HS Prannoy took a moment in the mixed zone and then gasped, "Finally, I have a Worlds medal."

Usually vocal on the court, HS Prannoy entered zen mode when up against the world champion and his home crowd. He didn't celebrate the points, he kept his calm and then signed off with an ice-cold salute.

Talking about the last few minutes, he said, "The only thing under my control is me. I was just thinking of taking the next five points. I was not aware of what was happening as I went into my zone post-second game and I guess that was important."

From an erratic youngster to a calm-headed veteran, HS Prannoy has started trusting the process more, and this is what has got him here.

Once termed as the 'giant killer', HS Prannoy has become the giant himself now, his bronze from Saturday being India's only medal from the 2023 World Championships and the 14th overall.

Only one thing is for sure. Nobody knows what the 'beast' from Kerala has in his bag for badminton fans here on.

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