Lakshya, and his aim in badminton

“Rankings will come and go, but the experience we get is important. I will put the National runner-up far above the World junior No. 1. Being a finalist in the Senior National championship is any day bigger than becoming World junior No. 1,” says Lakshya Sen, the promising badminton player.

Lakshya Sen... going great guns.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

On and off the court, Lakshya Sen is quietness personified. During the match, he looks at his coach after every point and after winning a rally, the 15-year-old raises his left fist while moving around the court.

Not much was expected of Lakshya at the Senior National badminton championship in Patna, but the media focus was on him as he had just become the World junior No.1.

With his wonderful net play and solid defence, Lakshya made a strong statement, and was on course to becoming the youngest senior National champion after Prakash Padukone in 1972. But Sourabh Verma, seeded third, put an end to Lakshya’s fairytale run in the summit clash. However, it was clear by then that the kid would go far, and would be a name to reckon with in the near future.

A trainee at the Prakash Padukone Academy, Bengaluru, since the age of 11, what caught the attention of one and all in Patna was his composed approach and attitude to the game. He did not shout, ‘Come On,’ ‘Come On,’ nor did he make gestures at his opponent.

In this interview, Lakshya speaks about his childhood, his aspirations, playing with Saina Nehwal and much more.

Question: Were you nervous playing in your first final?

Answer: I was not nervous. I’ve played Sourabh before in the Syed Modi International tournament, he is my senior. As the match progressed I started to make mistakes and I got conscious about it.

What lessons did you learn from the Nationals?

I am looking forward to playing in the senior tournaments more. Beating Prannoy and Harsheel (Dani) was great at the Nationals. Playing against seniors has definitely helped me.

How was it playing at the Prakash Academy in Bengaluru?

Prakash Sir guides me, gives me suggestions. He says, ‘play more like this, less like that.’ Watching and sparring with Saina (Nehwal) has helped. What she (Saina) thinks about the game, I get to understand.

How and when did you first pick up badminton?

My grandfather, Chandra Lal, used to play the sport in a club in Almora and I used to go along with him. In 2013, he passed away when he was 60. By then I had also started playing.

Your father is a SAI coach in Almora. When did you begin training with him? When did you first think of pursuing the sport seriously?

When I was four or five I went to my father’s coaching academy. That’s how it all started. I used to play in the Krishna Khaitan memorial under-10 tournament in Chennai. I then played another u-10 in Kochi. Two back-to-back tournaments! I was six years old when those two tournaments happened. In 2009, I played in the all-India u-10 in Guntur and won it.

Lakshya has the game to tame the best.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

 

Any memorable moments at the junior level?

In July last year, I got the individual bronze in the Asian championship in Bangkok. And in the team event, we (India) entered the quarterfinals only to lose to Japan. It was a great feeling when I beat the third-seed, Koki Watanabe of Japan, in the pre-quarterfinals in the individual event, as I lost to him badly in the team event.

Do you get individual attention at the Prakash Padukone Academy?

The support staff is good, and there are a lot of good junior players. In fact, the top 10-11 juniors are there. All are of the same age group. It is nice to train.

Prakash Padukone has said that your game resembles his?

When he says that, it makes me happy.

Can you tell us something about your first senior National ranking title in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, last year?

Then, most of the top players didn’t take part. Even then, I felt good winning it. It was not my first senior tournament. Actually, I had played four to five tournaments before this, reaching the semifinals of an all-india ranking in Bareilly and the quarters of another one in Kochi.

How is your bonding with Chirag Sen, your elder brother?

We do talk about games and share personal things.

Have you met Chia Hao Lees of Taipei, who is ranked second in juniors?

In fact, I’ve never played him. He is a very good player as he won the gold at the Asian junior championship two years back.

Your thoughts on the World junior championship to be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from October 16 to 22?

That is a big event where I will be taking part. I have played with most of the players and I will certainly try to win it.

Who are your favourite players?

Lee Chong Wee, because he is 34 and still playing so well. And Chen Long for his height and court coverage.

Do you have any dreams?

Of course, and it is to participate in the 2020 Olympics.

Have you at any point felt that too much training is ruining the charm of playing badminton?

Not at all. We do get breaks as everything is planned by Prakash Sir. Last time, I got a week’s break and I went home! And my school, where I have just finished my Std. X, has been supportive.

Isn’t Indian badminton looking up?

Yes. It is looking good. In the 2012 Olympics, Saina ji won a bronze and at the Rio Games, Sindhu got a silver. It is great.

Which one is special for you: getting the World No.1 ranking or making it to the final of the Nationals?

Rankings will come and go, but the experience we get is important. I will put the National runner-up far above the World junior No.1. Being a finalist in the Senior National championship is any day bigger than becoming World junior No.1.