HS Prannoy combines trick shot with class to enter Swiss Open finalMarch 27, 2022
HS Prannoy made a tournament final for the first time in five years. He was at the 2017 US Open Sunday in what seems like eons ago, not knowing that the next one would take half a decade to fetch up.
But like all of India’s earnest men’s singles players living in the shadow at times and luckless often, Prannoy never stopped loving badminton, a game he sculpts and savours and nurses and nurtures into fragments of perfection. Like the ‘Jerry shot’ that came off spectacularly when he beat Anthony Ginting 21-19, 19-21, 21-18 at the Swiss Open Super 300 final.
The Jerry shot was christened ‘Jerry Special’ by doubles specialist Pranav Jerry Chopra soon after the Saturday semis at Basel. That provenance might be one mighty chortle and a bit of a lark, but the trick shot came into being in one of the multi-shuttle practice sessions that India’s trainees singles and doubles at Hyderabad undertake, where they attempt to master a variation of deception with endless repetitions. Trick shots still need tasering crackles to work.
“I’ve been practicing it for the last few years, and worked on it. It’s a tough, tricky, risky shot but only in the last two tournaments have I tried it out in a few rounds.” On Saturday, it flummoxed one of the fastest players on the circuit, Indonesian Anthony Ginting.
Ginting is very fast. And then some more. There’s deception on his speed and he can come to the net in a blink. “He gets shots very quick even on defense. The annoying thing sometimes is you are tired, but he wants to push the pace, and it’s tough to get him to slow down.”
Enter Jerry Special. Prannoy, usually stationed mid-court or fore court at any rate, takes a step towards a face length incoming shuttle. His leg movement though is a hoopster’s classic feint. The right leg begins to move laterally right, and the entire body momentum would have the opponent believe that’s where the bird’s flying. But the racquet face turns and the shuttle goes cross the other way. It is extremely tough to pull off, but thrice in the semis, it completely stumped Ginting, one of the best at anticipation and interceptions.
Prannoy had shown good attacking fervour, even while defending stoutly as he took the opener. End of the second, Ginting overtook him and forced a decider. Prannoy might rue the wild cross thwack smash that straggled way wide. “I thought Sh*”, that’s a bad shot to execute. But I immediately moved on to thinking how to make the next game longer. I knew I was fitter than him.”
As it turned out, Prannoy got a good lead, Ginting hopped in close, but the Indian was far too confident on the day. Not rushing, eschewing risks, retrieving a lot, Prannoy was back.
“Last few months all Indian men are doing well after a long gap of time. There’s been lots of criticism of us and people were annoyed with us. But we’ve all stepped up,” he said.
The All England had been a tad disappointing with a first round loss. “I wanted to play a little deep into the week. I’ve lost to players in the last six months who’ve played very well on that day. Lakshya, Loh Kean Yew and Axelsen. But I never doubted myself. I knew I was on the right track.”
Indian support has been consistent throughout the European swing – Germany, Birmingham and Basel. “I hope it’s an all India final (Srikanth in the other semi). But if it’s the Indonesian (Jonatan Christie), then I know the crowd will cheer for me,” he chuckled.
Prannoy has taken it a round at a time, and not set targets. “But ultimately winning matters,” he states.
Ginting can hit whimsical form – very tricky on done days, very ordinary on others. Saturday was a good Anthony Ginting day. But Prannoy was much better. And reinforced with a ‘Jerry Special’ trick.