Lakshya goes down fighting as Indian challenge ends

Jan 19, 2023 11:32 PM IST

At the end of a tough, bruising encounter the youngster had lost 21-16, 15-21, 18-21 to Gemke

Battered and bruised, Lakshya Sen sunk to his knees after one hour and 21 minutes as the vociferous crowd got up to applaud. Across the net lay Rasmus Gemke, drenched and drained. It was tough to tell the winner but for the scoreline that read 21-16, 15-21, 18-21 in the Dane's favour.

The second game saw Gemke cut down on his unforced errors even as Lakshya's execution faltered.(PTI)
The second game saw Gemke cut down on his unforced errors even as Lakshya's execution faltered.(PTI)

In a match where the momentum changed with virtually every point, Gemke managed to keep his cool to advance to the quarter-final of the India Open here on Thursday.

Gemke, who had no answers to Lakshya's jump smashes in the first game, controlled the rallies and dictated the momentum in the two games that followed. "I knew I had to play my A game. Lakshya was always going to be a tough opponent. I wanted to be patient and wait for the right opportunities," he said.

World No 12 Lakshya, coming off a straight games win over compatriot HS Prannoy in the opening round, started the match strongly, nailing his jump smashes and finding the lines regularly. On more than one occasion, he enticed Gemke to the net before flicking the shuttle deep.

At 15-12 in the first game, the slow rally suddenly came to life with Lakshya snapping his wrist for a stunning backhand winner and followed it up with another smash to go 17-12 up.

Things, however, changed dramatically from there. The second game saw Gemke cut down on his unforced errors even as Lakshya's execution faltered. With his net play becoming increasingly erratic, Lakshya tried some high tosses to keep the shuttle in play but ended up hitting long. The 9-11 deficit gradually swelled to 11-17 and it was not long before Gemke forced the decider.

The world No 20 Dane galloped to an 8-1 lead in the third game but Lakshya went on a five-point spree of his own to bridge the gap. At 15-17, the two played a breathtakingly high-tempo rally that encapsulated the match itself. With shots ranging from high tosses to half smashes, forehand drives to backhand flicks, the two went toe to toe before Lakshya hit one long. A rousing smash brought the gap back to two points but a service error, followed by a net cord, and yet another long hit handed the game and match to Gemke.

"I had a very disappointing start to the third set; going 1-8 down is not acceptable. I could have taken some breaks in between, tried something different... didn't have to wait to go down by eight points and then start playing," Lakshya said.

"I played well to cover up the game, but in the end, it just wasn't enough."

Gemke will now face world No 1 and compatriot Viktor Axelsen, who got the better of China’s Shi Yu Qi 21-16, 16-21, 21-9 earlier in the day.

With Saina Nehwal going down to Chen Yufei 21-9, 21-12 and the men's doubles pair of Satwik Sairaj and Chirag Shetty withdrawing due to a groin strain to Satwik, the Indian challenge has come to an end in the Super 750 event.


    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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