Mumbai, March 21 (IANS) A small-town boy’s journey to international badminton success — that in a nutshell is the story of India’s rising badminton star Lakshya Sen, who finished runner-up in the prestigious All England Open on Sunday.
Born in Almora, a cantonment town in Kumaon Hills of Uttarakhand, the 20-year-old has faced various trials and tribulations as he chased his dream of making it big in badminton.
Coming from a badminton family — his grandfather was a national-level player, father D.K Sen is a senior coach with Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru and brother Chirag Sen is a player and was ranked World No 2 in Junior Rankings in 2016 — Lakshya was a successful junior player who is now blazing a trail in the senior circuit.
His meteoric rise started in December 2021 when he stormed into the semi-finals at the BWF World Championships, eventually losing to compatriot Kidambi Srikanth, settling for a bronze medal at Huelva, Spain.
A few weeks later, Lakshya won his first BWF World Tour Super 500 title at the India Open in New Delhi, beating World Champion Loh Kean Yew in the final. He continued his success at the German Open where he defeated the reigning Olympic Champion and World No 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the semi-finals before losing to Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand, a player with whom Lakshya had waged many a battle in the junior circuit, in the final.
The bigger break came at the 2022 All England Open Championship in Birmingham as Sen defeated World No 3 Anders Antonsen of Denmark — 2021 World Championships bronze medallist — in the second round and defending champion Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia, the World No 7, in the semis.
Though he could not get the better of Axelsen in the final, Lakshya Sen proved that he was slowly gaining momentum as a ‘serial killer’ of top-10 players in the BWF circuit.
But Lakshya Sen’s journey to his current ranking of World number 11 in BWF rankings, has not been easy and the 20-year-old had to clear a couple of bottlenecks on his way to success.
The first big change in his life came in 2013 when his father DK Sen took him to the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru to train under U Vimal Kumar and Prakash Padukone. That helped Lakshya carve a path to the top of the junior circuit, becoming World No 1 junior player in 2017.
The transition from a top junior player to success in the senior circuit has proved a bottleneck for many players and Lakshya, too, was getting bogged down by the tribulations when he had a short stint at the academy run by Danish legend Morten Frost. They worked on his strength and stamina, making Lakshya realise how to summon the last bit of energy to execute the next smash even when the body was unwilling to go on.
Lakshya, who had a brilliant year in 2018 winning bronze at World Junior Championships, gold at Asian Juniors and gold in mixed team and silver in men’s singles at Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, made a successful entry winning a couple of Super 100 titles.
He was greatly benefited from a two-week training stint with Olympic Champion Viktor Axelsen in August 2021. Axelsen had invited Lakshya along with Loh Kean Yew of Singapore, the current World Champion, Brian Yang of Canada, Toby Penty of Denmark, and Felix Burestedt of Sweden to train with him in Dubai.
Lakshya later said he learned a lot about training methods, strengthening and conditioning during that stint.
It is that stint with Axelsen which has eventually put Lakshya on course to his recent success, taking him to the verge of a place in the Top-10 in the World.