All England 2023: Lakshya Sen starts with a bang

By, New Delhi
Mar 14, 2023 11:58 PM IST

The young Indian, who reached the All England final last year, beat fifth seed Chou in the first round

Even though Lakshya Sen had won tournaments, medalled at the World Championships and entered the top 10 in the world rankings, it was the 2022 All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham that made him a household name in India.

Lakshya Sen reacts during his round of 32 men's singles match against Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen(Reuters)
Lakshya Sen reacts during his round of 32 men's singles match against Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen(Reuters)

Reaching the final of the celebrated $1.25 million tournament a year ago had put the 21-year-old in an elite club comprising of Prakash Nath, his mentor Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand and Saina Nehwal.

But Sen’s career hasn’t quite taken flight since then. While 2022 started brilliantly for him – winning India Open, reaching the finals of German Open and All England Open – he failed to go past the quarter-finals in all BWF World Tour events in the past year. Apart from the success at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last August, the shuttler from Almora has struggled to make a mark in the international circuit.

But perhaps the air of Birmingham can bring about a much-needed change in his career path. Tuesday’s first-round contest in the Super 1000 tournament showed that it is perhaps exactly what he needs.

Up against world No 5 Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei, an opponent Sen had yet to beat in their previous two outings, the Indian came out with his aggressive best to oust the 2020 All England Open finalist.

The world No 19 Indian took 49 minutes to beat the fifth-seeded Chou 21-18, 21-19 to advance to the second round at Arena Birmingham.

“It feels good to be back in Birmingham again. I have great memories from last year. I love to play in this kind of arena. It’s one of the biggest tournaments and it was always my dream to come and play here. It was a big match today and credit to Chou Tien Chen for giving me a great match. It is a tough opponent so I was prepared to give my all out there and I’m happy with the way I came out in both of those sets," said Sen in the mixed zone after the match.

Sen has struggled against top opponents in the last year, at times his problematic shoulder gave him trouble, at other times his lack of composure hurt him. He also underwent minor surgery for deviated nasal septum.

“The last few months have been really tough. Things have been here and there, my immunity was not up to scratch so I was getting sick really often after the surgery. I’ve just been trying to get back into my full fitness. The last few months I’ve been completely at full fitness and I’ve had some good training weeks coming here. I’m looking forward to playing now," added Sen.

Sen brought patience into his game in the last one-and-a-half years, mixing attack with improved retrieving abilities. On Tuesday, he used both skills intelligently to beat his seasoned opponent – who claimed the World Championship bronze last year.

While the contest started in neck-and-neck fashion, Sen started pulling away – the difference being that Sen was regularly taking the initiative. In a game of lightning fast reactions, Sen pulled out some stunning winners that caught Chou completely off guard despite fighting back late into the first game.

After some attacking points that won Chou points at the start of the second game, Sen seized the initiative to take the momentum away from the Chinese Taipei’s shuttler. The smile on the faces of coaches Anup Sridhar and U Vimal Kumar kept getting bigger seeing their protégé move closer towards a victory.

Both shuttlers went out on full attack mode towards the end with Sen using a body smash to enter the Round of 16 where he will face Danish shuttler Anders Antonsen or Rasmus Gemke on Thursday.

“More than tactically, he is an all-around strong player so I tried to take initiative and create openings all the time. If you lose three or four points then he’ll pounce on that and really take advantage of that. Every point, I had to be on my toes, try to attack and score the points. You have to still play a very steady and disciplined game," said Sen.

Prannoy wins too

Sen’s friend and roommate HS Prannoy also enjoyed a good outing as he beat Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei 21-19, 22-20 in 49 minutes. The highest ranked Indian shuttler at world No 9, Prannoy was running away to closing out the first game leading 12-4 at the start and then 19-13.

But Wang won six straight points to level the contest at 19-all before the Thomas Cup champion won the next two to edge ahead in the contest.

In contrast, the second game was quite a tight contest with neither shuttler giving the other a gap of more than a point. It was level at 20-all too but Prannoy pulled out two crucial points to clinch the contest and enter Round 2.

This was Prannoy’s fifth victory in eight meetings against Wang and will take on Indonesian third seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting on Thursday with the Indian having a 2-1 record.

Meanwhile, former finalist Saina Nehwal pulled out of the world’s oldest badminton tournament leaving PV Sindhu as the lone Indian contender in the women’s singles. The former world champion will face China’s Zhang Yi Man in Round 1 on Wednesday.

Thomas Cup champions Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala got lucky and were promoted from the men’s doubles reserve list after Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia pulled out.

There will be no Indian representation in mixed doubles after Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto also pulled out from mixed doubles.


    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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