Badminton: Lakshya Sen exits Thailand Open after hard-fought battle against second seed Kunlavut
This was the first time the Indian shuttler entered a semifinal this season, improving on his previous best of reaching the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters in January.
BANGKOK: The Indian challenge at the Thailand Open ended after star shuttler Lakshya Sen lost a tough three-game men's singles semifinal against Thailand's second seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn on Saturday.
The 21-year-old from Almora looked in control in the first game but lost his way as the match progressed to eventually go down 21-13, 17-21 and 13-21 in a contest that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
It was neck-and-neck between the two shuttlers in the first game before Sen surged to an 11-6 lead at the break. His opponent then came out strong after the break and won four straight points to reduce the lead to 11-10.
Sen fought back just at the nick of time to take a five-point lead and closed down the opening game quite easily without giving any chance to his opponent.
The second game was fought evenly between the two players as they matched each other till 10 points before Kunlavut used his cross-court smashes to take a narrow 12-10 lead for the first time in the match.
The Indian, however, forced his way with the help of long rallies and precise drop shots as the battle continued between the two players.
Kunlavut then went on to pocket four straight points to win the second game and take the match to the final game.
In the decider, the momentum initially shifted in Kunlavut's favour as he raced to a 5-2 lead but the Indian clawed his way back.
The long rallies finally took a toll on the Indian, who looked tired as the final game progressed, handing Kunlavut a substantial 18-12 lead after which the Thai closed down the decider quite easily.
Kunlavut will next play the winner of the other semifinal between Hong Kong's eighth seed Cheuk Yiu Lee and Toma Junior Popov of France.
Lakshya had entered the semifinal for the first time this season, having come close in Indonesia Masters, where he exited in the quarterfinals.
His ranking has dropped down to 23 from a career-high sixth due to a string of below-par performances this year.