The excruciating pain that usually accompanies an extended title wait has ended.
The heartache of losing a first final in five years at the 2022 Swiss Open has evaporated.
The agony of not clearing three semifinals since, has dissipated.
The crippling doubts that lingered when health issues recurred have been put to rest.
H.S. Prannoy is a title winner again, six years on from his last triumph at the 2017 US Open.
“It feels great,” Prannoy exclaimed after seeing off promising Chinese talent Weng Hong Yang 21-19 13-21 21-18 in the 93-minute PERODUA Malaysia Masters 2023 final, having also dispatched sixth seed Chou Tien Chen, All England champion Li Shi Feng and Kenta Nishimoto on his way there.
“I had tough matches, I had to dig deep. The conditions were really slow, the entire tournament, all the matches were going long and I just had to hang in there.
“Four matches went to the wire. That shows my patience and fitness were pretty decent. To beat these players isn’t easy.
“Thanks to all the coaches, support staff back home in Hyderabad, (Pullela) Gopichand sir. He kept telling me I should believe it would happen one day.”
Resolve must be a main part of Prannoy’s makeup – the 30-year-old doesn’t go down easily. Not when he was floored by gastroesophageal reflux disease at the 2018 World Championships, not when COVID-19 hampered his performance and progress post-recovery, not when he slipped on his ankle in India’s semifinal win at last year’s Thomas Cup.
In fact, all his completed matches this week have been three-gamers; he spent an average of 79 minutes on court. While Prannoy is now world No.9, he’s had to work his way back up – he was No.33 not too long ago in November 2021.
“The last six years were too much of a rollercoaster ride for me. To be honest, if you had asked in 2017, I don’t think I would have said I’d be winning a Super 500 in 2023,” said the first male Indian titlist at this tournament.
At 19-18 in the decider, Prannoy found the line by the finest of margins. When the HawkEye replay confirmed it, he knew the title was his.
“I was feeling the heat, Weng was playing well towards the end,” recalled Prannoy. “When I hit it I thought I got it right. To see it that close, sometimes you need luck to favour you and for me this is that day.
“I discovered a lot of things at this tournament. There would be a lot of confidence going back home and restarting training next week.”
Post-match, Prannoy milked the cheering crowd’s adulation, lobbed some merchandise into the stands, perched the podium holding his prizes and disappeared into the Axiata Arena tunnel.
The next time he reemerges from another tunnel at another stadium, it will be as an HSBC BWF World Tour title holder.
An honour that has been a challenging half a dozen years in the making.
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