All England: Driven by 'persistence and resilience', Lakshya Sen beats Antonsen - Hindustan Times

All England: Driven by 'persistence and resilience', Lakshya Sen beats Antonsen

Mar 14, 2024 11:43 PM IST

The 22-year-old earned his biggest win in several months as he beat world No.3 Anders Antonsen to reach the men’s singles quarter-finals of the All England Open

The last six months have been tough for Lakshya Sen. Seven successive first round losses, career on a downward spiral, separation with coach Anup Sridhar, doubts over qualification for Paris Olympics. The 22-year-old had been searching for answers.

India's Lakshya Sen(PTI)
India's Lakshya Sen(PTI)

But his mentors U Vimal Kumar and the great Prakash Padukone always kept harping on the need to adhere to two core virtues both on and off court – persistence and resilience. Sen not just believed but also followed the mantra of the two coaches to finally turn his career around.

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Last week, the 22-year-old from Almora beat former world champion Loh Kean Yew and 2023 All England winner Li Shifeng – his first victory against top-five player in more than half-a-year – before reaching his first semi-finals since July 2023.

On Thursday, Sen earned his biggest win in several months as he ousted world No.3 Anders Antonsen 24-22, 11-21, 21-14 to reach the men’s singles quarter-finals of the $1.3 million All England Open. But not without drama.

Sen wasted four game point opportunities before finally closing the first game but thereafter the world No.18 looked completely drained of energy in the second game. Sen looked not just down but almost out at 2-8 and then at 6-12 before staging a sensational comeback victory to first level the score at 13-all before winning eight straight points to close the game in his favour in an hour and 20 minutes.

The last 11 days have not just resurrected Sen’s career but also his chances of qualifying for the Olympics as he was racing against time to make the cut for Paris. This win, second in five outings against Antonsen, is nothing less than a statement from Sen. The Dane has been the player to beat in 2024, having won the Malaysia Open and Indonesia Masters and 16 of the 17 matches he had played till Thursday.

“I am very pleased with the way Lakshya was able to convert this into a win, especially against a player who is not just tricky but has also been the most consistent player this year. He started by keeping a very good length at the start,” Vimal said from Birmingham.

"It eventually boiled down to who made the fewer errors. Lakshya played sensibly in the first game but made unbelievable errors to give away such a big lead. In the third I told him why wasn’t he getting angry for committing such silly errors. He should end it.”

Sen paid heed to Vimal’s advice and started playing percentage badminton, not committing errors in the second half of the decided. A couple of silly errors from Antonsen, who looked casual and assured of a win, is when Sen pounced on the opportunity to keep the shuttle in play and slowly clawing back into the contest.

A couple of umpiring calls that went against Antonsen also frustrated the Dane. By now, Sen had turned the tables on Antonsen to clinch eight straight points and fell to the floor after winning the contest.

Sen will take on 2021 All England champion Lee Zii Jia next in the Super 1000 tournament in Birmingham against whom the Indian has a 3-1 record. “Tomorrow the trick will be to contain Lee Zii Jia, defend well and move on the counterattack. Me and Prakash have told him to keep his feet on the ground despite the win today and just focus on winning tomorrow,” said Vimal.

While Sen advanced to the last eight stage, PV Sindhu exited in Round 2 after losing 19-21, 11-21 to world No.1 An Se Young. Playing her best badminton in more than a year, the former world champion showed her eagerness to fight the South Korean but even though not at 100 percent, An, who is nursing a recurring knee issue, was good enough to beat the Indian.

In women’s doubles, Tanisha Crasto and Ashwini Ponnappa showed promise when they won the first game 21-11 against Zhang Shuxian and Zheng Yu but the Chinese fifth seeds were able to rally and win the next two games 21-11 and 21-11.

Late on Wednesday, top seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty overcame their idols, three-time world champions Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan 21-18, 21-14 to open their account at All England. But it was the end of the road for Panda sisters, Rutaparna and Swetaparna, who went down 9-21, 9-21 to Japan’s Rin Iwanaga and Kie Nakanishi.

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    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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