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Lakshya Sen, the shy hill boy is now Asian junior badminton champion

Lakshya Sen is only the third Indian and second male to lift the Asian Junior Championship title. Gautam Thakkar (1965) and PV Sindhu (2012) had won the prestigious tournament earlier.

other sports Updated: Jul 22, 2018 20:06 IST
Avishek Roy
Avishek Roy
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lakshya Sen,Badminton,Asian Junior Championship
Lakshya Sen (R) with junior national coach Sanjay Mishra.(Badminton Association of India)

At 19-18 in the second game against junior World No 1 Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand, Lakshya Sen dived to recover a shuttle, hurting his finger. The 16-year-old called the doctor and took his time to regain composure. Lakshya then won two intense rallies to close out the match 21-19, 21-18, winning the Asian Junior Championship title in Jakarta on Sunday.

For his coach Vimal Kumar, that time-out was the key. “The Thailand boy was catching up. He had won two points when Lakshya fell and took a clever break. The skin had come off his finger. He called the doctor, took his time to gather his thoughts and pulled off the next three points brilliantly,” said Vimal.

“Laskhya played well in all crucial stages. In the first game, he was down 7-12 and then 18-19. But he pulled out very well. I was worried because he has lost from such positions in the past,” added Vimal who spotted Lakshya in 2010 and has trained him at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy since 2010.

He is only the third Indian and second male to lift the title. Gautam Thakkar (1965) and PV Sindhu (2012) had won the prestigious tournament earlier.

ALSO READ | Lakshya Sen wins Badminton Asian Junior Championships title

A shy and unassuming hill boy, Lakshya hails from a badminton family in Almora. His father DK Sen is a badminton coach while grandfather CL Sen also played the sport. Both Lakshya and elder brother Chirag took to badminton. Vimal noticed the spark in the brothers at a national event and brought them to the academy in Bangalore. “Laskhya was too young but he was good for his age. He wanted to stay back with his brother and I asked their father to let both the kids train at our academy,” Vimal recalls.

Lakshya reminds Vimal of his close friend and mentor Prakash Padukone. “Laskhya’s style is a bit different but in temperament, he reminds me of Prakash Padukone. He is quiet and shy but receptive and smart.”

Under the guidance of Padukone and Vimal, the brothers started to make their mark at world junior level. Chirag, three years older to Lakshya, was No 2 in junior world rankings. Lakshya bettered him last year, reaching the top spot. Since then, he has been making waves at the senior level too. He took a game off Lin Dan at the New Zealand Open recently.

Going into the Asian Junior Championships, Lakshya, seeded sixth, was one of the favourites for the title.

In the quarter-finals, he defeated second-seed Chinese Li Shifeng, the current world No 2 in juniors, and took out fourth seed Indonesian Ikhsan Leonardo Rumbay in the semi-finals, both in straight games. But in the final, Lakshya was up against an opponent who has been ruling the world junior circuit for over a year and had replaced him at the top of the rankings last year.

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“Laskhya has wristy shots as well as good power and variations. But he needs to get better physically. He is injury-prone so he needs to build strength.”

Before Lakshya left, he had pain in his shin but he dealt with it very well. “What stands out in the tournament is the way he defended despite being a fast-paced player. He had a shin injury so he had to adapt and not rely on too much power,” says junior national coach Sanjay Mishra who is travelling with the team.

Vimal says Lakshya is showing the spark and maturity early in his career. Quite like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.

First Published: Jul 22, 2018 20:05 IST