20-year-old Lakshya Sen put up a mature display beyond his age on Friday to book his semifinal spot against Kidambi Srikanth and assure himself of a medal at the BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain.
The former Asian junior champion saved a match point at 20-20 against World No. 42 Zhao Jun Peng to win 21-15, 15-21, 22-20 and continue his dream journey on his BWF World Championships debut.
Up next is the resurgent Kidambi Srikanth, who has rediscovered his form and confidence after a long period of lull. The two have never faced off on the international circuit before, but the older Indian does have a win over Sen at the Senior National Championships.
Srikanth has dropped just a solitary game in four matches at the BWF World Championships 2021 so far and is looking every bit like the former World No. 1 men's singles shuttler that he is.
Despite the 28-year-old being back to his best, Lakshya Sen remains unfazed. The youngster himself made it to the semifinals of the BWF World Tour Finals on his debut earlier this month and has complete faith in his game.
"I haven’t played Srikanth in three years, it’s been a while, so it will be a good match," Sen told BWF after his quarterfinal win on Friday.
"He’s playing really well, he's beaten opponents in single digits this week. I'm also playing well, and we both play an attacking style. Let's see who makes the final. India is assured of a finalist, so that’s a good thing. I will go all out."
While discussing the strategy he applied to come out on top of the titanic quarterfinal tussle against Peng, Sen revealed it was his sharp netgame that came to his rescue.
"I'm very happy, it was a pressure match," said Sen. "Credit to him as well, he was playing at a good pace, even though he'd played long matches earlier.
"It was a tough and close match, so it feels good. I was on the faster side at the end of the match. More than hitting smashes, I was prepared to follow it up at the net. So that worked well in the last three points."
"Coming into this tournament, I was only thinking of the first round" - Srikanth on reaching semifinals of BWF World Championships
Srikanth, on his part, played his best match of the week against World No. 28 Mark Caljouw in the quarterfinals. The World No. 14 conceded just 15 points in the entire match on his way to a 21-8, 21-7 win and is looking as deadly as ever.
The Pullela Gopichand protégé had never been past the quarterfinals at the BWF World Championships before.
On guaranteeing himself his first medal from this prestigious event, Srikanth admitted he has been taking it match by match this week, which has helped him maintain his focus.
"Just very happy to be in the semifinals of the BWF World Championships," said Srikanth. "I just told myself I had to be in the match, I didn’t want to give a big lead or make easy mistakes, I had to be focussed.
"I'm happy to reach this stage. Coming into this tournament, I was only thinking of the first round," he added. "From there it was only about the next match."
The blockbuster all-Indian semifinal match at the BWF World Championships is expected to get underway on Saturday around 5.45 pm local time/10.15 pm IST.