Sleep-deprived Indian shuttler HS Prannoy had almost given up on winning his next title and breaking a six-year long drought before chief national coach Pullela Gopichand instilled in him the belief that he remains a force to reckon with.
On May 28, Prannoy ended the title drought with a three-game win over China's Weng Hong Yang in a pulsating men's singles finals at the Malaysia Masters Super 500 tournament here.
"I think there are too many emotions. The last six years have been too much of a rollercoaster. I didn't expect that it will happen after six years to be honest. I mean if you would have asked me in 2017 I don't think I would have told you that I will win in 2023. So lots of mixed emotions," Prannoy said after the title triumph.
"Thanks to all the coaches, support staff and Gopi sir (chief national coach Pullela Gopichand). He kept telling me that it will happen one day and I should keep believing," he added.
The 30-year-old Prannoy, who is ranked ninth in the world and India's best at the moment, also thanked his former teammate RMV Gurusai Dutt, who turned to coaching after retiring in June last year, for helping him out in his hour of need.
"Thanks to Guru, last four months we have worked really hard and the results finally came out." The BWF World Tour is divided into six levels, namely World Tour Finals, four Super 1000, six Super 750, seven Super 500, and 11 Super 300 in order. One other category of tournament, the BWF Tour Super 100 level, also offers ranking points.
The Super 500 is a Grade 2 (level 4) event in the BWF tournament ranking system.
He said he has not slept well in the last three days.
"I haven't been sleeping well for last three days, my team was a bit worried that I am not sleeping. There was so much emotion, you are excited to come out and play in front of this beautiful crowd." Prannoy was instrumental in India's epic Thomas Cup victory last year but an individual title has eluded him since the 2017 US Open Grand Prix Gold.
This week however, Prannoy gave ample display of his fortitude as he outfoxed his opponents — world number five Chou Tien Chen, All England champion Li Shi Feng and Japan's Kenta Nishimoto — in three games on way to the title clash.
"The draw was really tough for me, I had tough matches. I had to really dig deep in the four matches. It all went to the wire. It shows how much I was patient and my fitness was also decent.
"To beat such players is not easy. The conditions were slow and I had to hang in there and I did that.
"The first thing is to keep aside the competition within ourselves, the competition is with myself. I think it is really important for me to be consistent whatever I do and results will follow." Prannoy has battled a series of injuries and health issues before turning his career around in the back end of 2021.
"I need to be smart enough which tournaments to play and which to back out and train in between the tournaments, these are the key points because the number of tournaments are really really high and we have to be smart.
"It (the triumph) gives a lot of insights. When you dig deep and win such matches, that helps you find a lot of hidden gems, you will be discovering those after a long time and realise that you can do that.
"That's what happened in Malaysia, I could discover a lot of things and it will give me confidence to train and be ready for next few events." Even as Prannoy looked for that big title triumph, former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Gurusai Dutt has been his constant companion.
Guru felt adding a few shots to his repertoire of strokes helped Prannoy.
"He has always been consistent. He just needed that one win. Gopi sir and myself we felt it was around the corner. He has beaten all the top players and it was about belief," he told PTI.
Gurusai added, "This particular tournament, I felt he played some different strokes, such as cross net and drops. He had added a couple of shots which would open up his attack. Gopi sir had given some inputs and when we were in Hyderabad, we worked on it.
"But to try it in match situation is tough. It comes out of experience. People are not ready for new shots, these players play each other quite a lot, so these new strokes helped him.