'Quite unfortunate we're meeting in 1st round twice in a week': Lakshya Sen on drawing Prannoy yet again at India Open
A week after HS Prannoy edged past Lakshya Sen in the opening round of the Malaysia Open, the two are drawn against each other yet again in their India Open opener.
In January last year, Lakshya Sen stunned the badminton fraternity with a huge win over then-world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore to win the India Open title. The 21-year-old Indian shuttler had already announced himself at the grand stage with a bronze at the BWF World Championships in 2021, but Sen made the heads turn after beating the Singaporean former World No.1. Later in the year, he reached the All England final and also brought glory to the country with a top-podium finish at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. However, Sen’s performances began to dip as the season progressed in 2022; in the five BWF tournaments he played after the CWG in the year, his best performance was a quarterfinal finish at the Denmark Open.
Sen also endured a poor start to 2023 at the Malaysia Open, enduring a first-round exit against compatriot HS Prannoy in three games. In fact, the duo met thrice in six tournaments since the CWG last year, with Prannoy winning twice. To add to Sen’s woes, he was drawn against the in-form 30-year-old Indian shuttler yet again at the home tournament in Delhi.
Prannoy, currently the no.1 Indian men’s singles player, reached the quarterfinals at the Malaysia Open last week. But even the senior Indian shuttler couldn’t resist making a tongue-in-cheek remark on his frequent meetings with Sen when the draw for the India Open was announced last month. “@lakshya_sen looks like Tournament Software wants to see only us playing against each other in all tournaments. 7th meeting in the last 1 year, You got to be kidding me,” Prannoy had written on his official Twitter account.
Sen calls the unusual regularity in the draw “unfortunate” but insists the players have no option but to prepare for such challenges.
“Yeah, we have met many times over the past few months. Not every time in the first round… last year, it was in the quarterfinals or semi-finals. This time, it’s quite unfortunate that we are playing each other in the first round twice in a week. We just have to take it as just another match… Both of us are ranked in the top-10 and it’s completely okay that we are playing in the first round. That’s how the draw goes in every tournament,” Sen replied to a question from Hindustan Times Online during a press conference on Monday ahead of the start of India Open.
During his address, Sen also stated that the conditions at the India Open will be different and that he wants to focus on the upcoming encounter against Prannoy. “The conditions will be different here (in Delhi). It's a different match and it was a very close contest last time (against Prannoy) as well. I will give my best this time,” said the youngster.
Lakshya eyes title defence
When Sen competed in the India Open last year, it was a Super 500 event; however, since the tournament is upgraded to 750 series, the men’s singles lineup looks relatively stronger with the arrival of top-ranked Viktor Axelsen, who had cruised to Malaysia Open win last week.
Sen is hopeful for his title defence, though, and the confidence stems from the fact that the Indian youngster is one of the only three players in the circuit to have defeated Axelsen last year.
“Last year was my first appearance at the India Open and I was very happy that I could win the tournament in my very first attempt. India Open is now a Super 750 event and as defending champion, I am looking forward to playing my best and trying to defend my title,” said the 21-year-old, who begins his campaign on Tuesday.
All three Indian men’s shuttlers at the India Open – Sen, Prannoy, and Kidambi Srikkanth -- are in Section 1 that also includes Axelsen. The Danish top-ranked player will face Srikkanth in the first round.