A smash to the right of the World Champion and that was it for Lakshya Sen. On his debut at the Indian Open, the 20-year-old outshined the reigning World Champion Loh Kean Yew to clinch his first Super 500 title. Following a couple of close calls at the World Championships and the World Tour Finals, Lakshya was finally able to get his hands on the gold medal.
And what better way to cap off a tremendous year for him and kick off a new one than winning the biggest title of his career so far. Sen’s coach Vimal Kumar is delighted by the way his prodigious student has evolved over the course of the year. Vimal feels that the Indian did well to upset the rhythm of Loh which enabled him to control both the games.
“Lakshya’s tactics were better. Both have a very similar style of attacking badminton. The good part was that Lakshya was dictating the pace of the rallies and controlling it. In that sense, he didn’t allow Loh to come under the shuttle and execute his hard smashes and fast drops. Whenever he did that, Lakshya was ready for it and countered it effectively,” Kumar told ETV Bharat.
“All this upset the rhythm of Loh and Lakshya was able to dominate all the rallies. Lakshya was varying the pace and even in the net area, he kept it very well. He kept lifting the shuttle back to the court which also caught his opposition on the wrong foot. Loh could never come under the shuttle. He was dominating both the game right from the beginning.“
“I am sure, he can do better,” Vimal Kumar confident of Lakshya Sen’s potential
While Lakshya Sen enjoyed success on the court during 2021, it was rough sailing to start off with. While the pandemic had disrupted every athlete’s preparations, Sen had to endure a lot after being snubbed from the Indian team for Sudirman Cup and the Thomas Cup Finals. Coach Vimal Kumar feels that the young gun has improved a lot having faced off with some fierce competitors in Kento Momota, Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and so on.
“Lakshya has developed a good temperament. He is very patient. In the last three months, he has played some gruelling matches against the Japanese and European players which have helped him believe that he can last out. Earlier, there was only one way that he used to play — attacking. If that didn’t work, he will go into a shell and would make mistakes,” the coach shares.
“But I see a lot of change in that approach. He firmly believes he can last out. I have also noticed that he has been able to pull out good matches when the going was tough. He is sticking in there and playing. That is a very positive sign. As he gets better, he will gain more fitness and strength. I am sure, he can do better.“
Following the Tokyo Olympics, champion Axelsen invited Lakshya Sen and Loh Kean Yew for a two-week training stint. Vimal opines that while the stint didn’t play a huge role, it could be a game-changer going ahead. The Indian coach adds that it is something that has been prevalent in other sports and will really help the budding shuttlers.
“He was there for only two weeks. You cannot say that. That is not the whole thing. When he was going through a very low phase, Viktor called him and they all got together and practised for two weeks. It helped him deal with the disappointment for not being able to make it to the India team. Because he was dropped from the Thomas Cup team which affected him a lot.“
“We are looking at continuing this further because Viktor, Loh Kean Yew — they are a good group of players. Since Viktor has moved out of Denmark and is setting up his base in Dubai, these players will get together and play and this will really help them. This is how some of the players in tennis do things,” Kumar signed off.