CHENNAI: In the early hours of Monday (Sunday night in Canada) DK Sen, a badminton coach himself, was awake watching his son, His son Lakshya was trailing by four points against the All-England champion, Li Shi Feng, in the Canada Open Super 500. Standing a chance to win his first major title since the Commonwealth Games gold medal, the coach and father was confident about his son getting over the line. It has not been a great season for this young champion so far and to put into perspective his struggle, he has not won a BWF World Tour title for the last 17 months.
To add to his woes there was fitness concern and more than the tired limbs and muscles, a tired mind was not supporting him. “It was not easy,” he said. “But it is good to get back into winning ways.”
“I was just focused on playing each point at that time throughout the match. when I won, I didn't know how to celebrate it at all. I didn't have anything planned. It was a relief at that point. But to win that second set and make a good comeback. I think after the match when I look back at the tournament, it's a good week for me,” he added.
For Lakshya, a world championships medallist and CWG gold champion, it was not a matter of skill, stamina or hard work. Something was not clicking and he decided to step back and ponder upon his failures. No wonder he took a break from the sport in early 2023 after his nose surgery. “I’ve come to realize that sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to take a step back and recharge,” Sen said in the Instagram post later, adding, “I’ve realised that it’s not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and self-awareness.”
Lakshya also added that his training with travelling coach Anup Sridhar has also started bearing results. “It has been six-seven months since we started training together,” he told his daily during transit in the US. “It has been a great journey together. We are getting to know each other on and off the court. It’s been a good mix of training and tournament. I appreciate his experience in certain situations.”
His father, DK Sen, felt he was confident of his son’s ability to beat Feng. “He had beaten Li Shi Feng in the Thailand Open recently. So I was confident (about his victory),” a proud father told this daily. And his confidence was fruitful as Sen eventually overcame the four points difference to win the title in Calgary 21-18, 22-20 in 50 minutes. “The way he played the match, especially the second game, was a confidence booster for him to make a comeback. It was a great mix of attack and defense. He had to overcome mental and physical challenges, too,” DK Sen added. “After his surgery, he was trying to gain form, but he was not able to do so,” said Vimal Kumar, his long-time coach and mentor. “He was constantly falling ill. His immunity was also not ideal. One day he would be perfectly fine, the next day he would end up with a fever or sore throat. With the tight schedule of the Olympic qualification coming up from now on, starting with the US Open, he needed that break then.”
Vimal Kumar has seen his pupil grow from a 10-year-old boy to a champion athlete over the years. “He was always a good student. He used to grasp things very fast. When you tell him something, in terms of the technical aspects, he would learn it quickly. And Lakshya had always been mentally strong. These are things that have helped him get where he is now. We are delighted to see him make a comeback after all of the hardships and health issues,” his mentor said.
The rejuvenated and fit again Lakshya has marked his remarkable comeback with the victory in Canada. With US, Korea, Japan, and Australia Open, the competitions that will count for the qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the aim, set and game for Lakshya are these now.