BENGALURU: After lack of matches last year due to Covid-19 situation, 2021 was going to be a challenge for Indian shuttler Lakshya Sen. Not only did he stand the test against some of the best, the 20-year-old passed out with flying colours - becoming the third Indian male to finish at the podium in the World Championships, thus announcing his arrival at the big stage via bronze medal in Spain.
But it did not happen overnight, the pride of Almora, who joined the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru five years ago, gradually spent hours honing his skills at the academy under various coaches. He eventually became world number one in juniors and clinched silver at the 2018 Youth Olympics as well.
As a youngster, he was pretty aggressive, and felt the need to make some adjustments in his game to compete at the top level, and become a better all-round player, which borne fruit in the prestigious competition last week.
The bronze medallist, in an interaction with select media, spoke on various topics, including the importance of rallies, his targets for next year and the coaches, who have shaped his career. Excerpts:
About the season and the Worlds
It was a good season for me. To end the year with a bronze medal, it was a good run for me, especially in the last two months. It is going to give me great confidence going ahead. With the Worlds medal, everyone around me is happy.
Leading upto the Worlds, you competed against Kento Momata, Viktor Axelsen. How much did that help you in Spain?
It was a good experience for me playing Momota twice, and Axelsen twice. Those matches gave me a lot of confidence and in between there was training and I could take care of my body. I had that good rhythm of playing matches continuously as well. That helped me in the Worlds.
Contribution of coaches and mentors like Prakash Padukone, Vimal Kumar, and Denmark's Morten Frost in your career
From a very young age, Prakash and Vimal sir have supported me. They have both been there in training and providing me with inputs. Sometimes Vimal sir traveled with me for tournaments too. In 2019, we went to Denmark for three months. Before that also, Morten sir was coming and traveling for tournaments. When I started working with Morten sir, I was ranked 110 and then I moved to the top 30. He changed my playing style a little -- from always attacking to building the shots better, constructing rallies etc. So when I entered the senior circuit, it really helped me.
Can you throw more light on playing longer rallies and matches?
When I was at the junior level, I used to play an attacking game. Still I am a naturally attacking player, but at the same time when you play at the top circuit, you just cannot score points in three to four shots. You have to construct rallies. Like when you are playing against Momota,he has a solid defence, you have to move them (top players) around. You have to vary a lot from the back, mixing up with the drop or half smashes. If you just keep hitting, you lose a lot of energy…. Everyone reads your game in the world circuit. Take the top 15 or 20 players, everyone has good defence, it is not easy to score so you have to construct a rally better by playing sharp shots from the back, slices, half smashes etc.
Your training with Axelsen in Dubai
That really helped me as I could play with them (Axelsen and other shuttlers around September). It was one on one with the players I was going to play in the top circuit. Playing with around four to five quality players gave me the momentum. I can say that game-wise I was much sharper to play matches after training with them. I feel that was needed as last year I did not play many tournaments.
Areas of improvement going forward
I will try and improve further on my fitness whenever I get a four to six weeks break between tournaments. I do not have that right now, but after the Indian Open, Syed Modi International, we will get five to six week, so I will try and improve upon my fitness a bit more, and also remain injury free. I want to work on my overall game, playing better strokes from the back, improving defence as well.
Next year, big events
There are a lot of big tournaments next year – Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, All England – I will be targeting these tournaments. But I will play other tournaments in the circuit as well, but these three to four tournaments are going to be the main target next year.
nts, too. In 2019, we went to Denmark for three months. When I started working with Morten sir, I was ranked 110 and then I moved to the top 30. He changed my playing style a little.