Lakshya Sen underlined his credentials with a stunning performance in the 2021 BWF World Championships as he secured the bronze medal.
Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth were the ultimate stories of the 2021 BWF World Championships. Both players had a similar story of pain and resurgence. Kidambi Srikanth was plagued by injuries, the coronavirus pandemic, and the failure to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Lakshya Sen, on the other hand, also suffered from the coronavirus lockdown and he failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Kidambi and Lakshya also had one more thing. Both were not tipped to win medals in the 2021 BWF World Championships.
However, when PV Sindhu lost to Tai Tzu-Ying, all the attention came to the men. Women’s badminton had been boosted by the brilliance of Sindhu in the Olympics and in the BWF World Championships in the last five years. But, the men had struggled. Ever since Prakash Padukone and HS Prannoy, the men’s shuttlers had failed to make an impact in the BWF World Championships. But, all that was about to change in 2021. This would be due to the exploits of Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth.
Lakshya Sen was tipped as a youngster with plenty of promise when he entered the senior circuit. The signs were magnificent in 2020 when he defeated Asian Games gold medalist Jonathan Christie. But, the coronavirus pandemic saw him suffer a duel blow. After being bogged down by a back injury, he also contracted the coronavirus which affected him.
🇮🇳🏸 CHAMPIONS! Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth became only the 3rd and 4th male shuttlers from India to win medals at the World Championships 💯— The Bharat Army (@thebharatarmy) December 19, 2021
📸 Getty • #LakshyaSen #KidambiSrikanth #WorldChampionships2021 #IndiaOnTheRise #Badminton #BharatArmy pic.twitter.com/9cagDVCapQ
With events being canceled, Lakshya Sen missed the bus for the Tokyo Olympics. At the same time, Kidambi Srikanth was also plagued by injuries. With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down all tournaments, he too missed the berth for the Tokyo Olympics.
The turning point for Lakshya Sen came at the start of 2021. After being dropped from the Thomas Cup squad and disappointing in the Hyderabad trials, he got an unexpected chance to learn from Danish and Olympic superstar Viktor Axelsen. It was the moment that perhaps laid the foundation for Lakshya to do well in the 2021 BWF World Championships.
When Lakshya Sen went to Dubai to train with Viktor Axelsen, he learned the importance of patience. The high intensity of training plus a strong defense was also imbibed in Lakshya and that helped him on a couple of occasions in the 2021 BWF World Championships.
During the match against Zhou Jun Peng, Lakshya Sen was down a match point. But, he bounced back in spectacular style to rebound and win the match to seal a medal. The youngster, in his maiden appearance at the BWF World Championships, had broken 38 years of pain for the men in the tournament.
Lakshya had beaten a couple of Chinese players en route to sealing a medal. But, it can be argued that top Indonesian and Chinese players, along with Kento Momota had skipped the tournament either due to injury or coronavirus fears. But, the draw still consisted of many talented players that could have given Lakshya a fair run for his money. He overcame them all and set up a dream semi-final against Kidambi Srikanth.
The semi-final between Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen was a symbolic one. It was a generational battle. Kidambi was the best singles player. Lakshya was an upcoming prodigy. It was the battle of Master vs Apprentice. Each player had their own stories of redemption after overcoming the pain of initial years.
In a classic that lasted 69 minutes, the two players gave it their whole. It was Lakshya who set the tone by winning the first game 17-21. But, Kidambi, boosted by years of experience on the senior circuit, came back in style. He won the next two games 21-14 and 21-17 to reach the final. In just one match, Kidambi and Lakshya had given India two more medals in a span of 38 years. The medal tally for the men had just doubled.
Lakshya did acknowledge that the matches were taxing. “All the matches I played were really long and tough on the body and tough mentally. But now it’s time to recover. I gave my all in the last match but it was not enough for me. I will definitely learn from this and after this, I will be taking a short break to refresh my mind and then get back to training,” Lakshya Sen told NDTV.
The hard work put in by Lakshya in this BWF World Championships has shown that Indian badminton is in good hands. Kidambi’s resurgence is the icing on the cake. There is hope for Indian badminton after Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. The only thing that is needed now is consistency.