SURAT: B Sai Praneeth, who won the men's badminton title in the 36th National Games here on Thursday, wants to break into the top 25 again in the world rankings.
After consistently beating some of the big names in the game since 2017, he topped it off by winning the Singapore Super Series crown 2017 and a World Championship bronze medal in 2019.
It looked like he would go on to conquer the world, step by step. But then the Covid Pandemic broke. Lockdowns were imposed around the world, including in India.
Everything came to a standstill, including Sai Praneeth's career.
"My career was on a high since 2017. I was on top of my game and was brimming with confidence too," he said, shortly after giving Telangana their third gold in the shuttle sport.
"But unfortunately, the lockdowns were imposed. It proved to be a huge disaster for me," he added.
"My training came to a halt. I used to go to the stadium but I wouldn't have any sparring partners. I was in a confused state of mind too. I didn't know if I should train or play safe. I ended up sitting at home," he disclosed, explaining the dip in his rankings.
Not only did Sai Praneeth lose momentum, his confidence also took a jolt. A couple of injuries also didn't help.
"I could not plan or train properly for the Tokyo Olympics. After that, because of a sudden overload of training, I picked up injuries too," he revealed.
The 30-year-old highly talented player feels he is back in his groove now. It must have helped that he upset Kerala's HS Prannoy, currently leading the World Tour Rankings, in the Team Championship Finals.
In the Men's Singles finals, he downed Karnataka's Mithun Manjunath for the title.
"It is all about self-belief and confidence. The win over Prannoy in the National Games will be a big boost for me going forward," he conceded.
Sai Praneeth, however, dismisses the talk that he is on his way out, declaring that he still has 2-3 years of badminton left in him. "My priority is to get back into the Top-25 in the world as early as possible. I have to work on my fitness so that I can play several tournaments.
"My family is a big help and that motivates me to play again. When I see my son, I feel relieved and happy," he said.