Lakshya Sen’s World Championships bronze medal could be turning point of his career, says coach Vimal Kumar

Lakshya Sen, who won the men's singles bronze medal at the World Championships, with coach Vimal Kumar
Lakshya Sen, who won the men's singles bronze medal at the World Championships, with coach Vimal Kumar

Lakshya Sen won the bronze medal at his maiden BWF World Badminton Championships, which concluded in Huelva, Spain last month.

Unseeded Lakshya Sen surprised everyone with his spectacular performance in his first appearance at the prestigious tournament. The 20-year-old won the bronze medal before his sensational run was stopped by his senior Indian counterpart Kidambi Srikanth in the historic all-India semifinal.

Having groomed Lakshya since his sub-junior days, coach Vimal Kumar was ecstatic with his ward’s bronze medal effort at the World Championships.

The senior coach believed Lakshya’s bronze medal could be the turning point of his career and predicts an even better performance in the coming years. Vimal Kumar, while speaking exclusively with Sportskeeda, said:

“Lakshya dished out an outstanding performance throughout the year. Lakshya was definitely playing at a different level in Huelva. He displayed exceptional match temperament and composure while dealing with tough situations against quality opponents. Bronze medal was a reward for his courageous performance. It could be the turning point of his career and I am sure he would like to maintain his brilliant form this year too."

Being the chief coach of Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, Vimal Kumar has seen Lakshya grow over the last decade or so. Vimal, the co-founder of the Bengaluru-based academy, praised Lakshya's never-say-die attitude at the World Championships. He was constantly in touch with Lakshya and guided him as he made inroads into the tournament.

“Lakshya did well to win three tough matches to storm into the semis. His victory in the quarterfinals was by far the best. Lakshya was down a match point but reeled off three successive points to book his last-four spot. Even in the semis against Kidambi Srikanth, he did his best. It was a fascinating sight to witness two Indian players battling it hard to reach the historic final. Lakshya was disappointed to lose the semis as he thought he had a golden chance to make it to the final,” Vimal Kumar added.

The former Indian badminton team chief coach said the pandemic had put brakes on the rise of Lakshya’s career. In 2019, Lakshya bagged four international titles to launch his career in the senior category in a grand manner.

Although the pandemic halted his dream run at the international level, he regained his momentum in 2021. He finished as runner-up at the Yonex Dutch Open after losing to Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew.

"Lakshya faced world champion Loh Kean Yew thrice last season and beat him once" - Vimal Kumar

Lakshya played three times in as many months last season. Although the eventual world champion got the better of the Indian shuttler on two occasions, the Singaporean also faced defeat at the hands of Lakshya.

At the French Open 2021 in October, Lakshya thumped Loh Kean Yew 21-17, 21-13 a week after the Dutch Open.

“Both Lakshya and Loh Kean Yew are in superb form this season. They crossed each other’s paths thrice in Europe late last year. It’s good that Lakshya has managed to beat him once. If Lakshya had beaten Srikanth, he would have faced Loh again in the World Championships final. There is a chance that they might face each other again in the forthcoming India Open in New Delhi,” said former two-time national champion Vimal Kumar.

Lakshya has been given the third seeding, while newly-crowned world champion Loh is the fifth seed. World Championships silver medalist Kidambi Srikanth has been given top billing. All three – Srikanth, Loh and Lakshya – would be eager to start the new season with a title under their belt.

World No. 17 Lakshya, who hails from Almora, Uttarakhand, would love to make his form count in the three back-to-back tournaments in India. After the Indian Open (New Delhi, January 11-16), the Syed Modi Open (Lucknow, Jan 18-23) and Odisha Open (Cuttack, January 25-30) will mark the BWF’s 2022 season.

“It is a good chance for Indian players like Lakshya and Srikanth to continue their superlative form. They will certainly enjoy home advantage in all three tournaments. For Lakshya, confidence will be a key factor. Having faced and beaten some of the best players on the circuit recently, he will be raring to go. He must utilize the confidence to churn out better results. I am quite optimistic about his good showing in the Indian leg of the BWF circuit,” said Vimal Kumar, a recipient of the Dronacharya Award in 2019.

The Indian Open will be played at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall of the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, New Delhi from January 11 to 16.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande