Lakshya battles Axelsen for long-awaited All England Open title

Lakshya Sen, India's rising badminton star, takes on world number one and reigning Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the All England Open final in Birmingham on Sunday.

In the semifinal on Saturday, Lakshya Sen came back from 12-16 down in the third game to beat Lee Zii Jia 21-13, 12-21, 21-19 in a match that lasted one hour 16 minutes.   -  AFP

Lakshya Sen is one win away from ending India's 21-year-wait for an All England Open title. However, the man that stands between him and the trophy in Birmgham on Sunday is world number one and reigning Olympic champion - Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.

The 20-year-old shuttler from Almora is only the fifth Indian ever to reach the final of the prestigious tournament. While Prakash Padukone (1980) and Pullela Gopichand (2001) won the trophy, Prakash Nath (1947) and Saina Nehwal (2015) failed at the final hurdle.

A product of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru, Sen has been in tremendous form in the last six months with a world championship bronze medal and a first Super 500 title at India Open beating reigning world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the final. Last week, he finished as runner-up at the German Open where he beat Axelsen in three games on his way to the final.

 

At the ongoing All England Open, Lakshya began his campaign with a 21-17, 21-7 victory over compatriot Sourabh Verma in the opening round. The world number 11 then stunned world number 3 Anders Antonsen of Denmark 21-16, 21-18 in the second round before getting a walkover in the quarterfinal as his Chinese opponent Lu Guang Zu pulled out with an injury.

In the semifinal on Saturday, India's highest ranked male shuttler was up against defending champion Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia. Showing nerves of steel and brilliant tactical acumen, he came back from 12-16 down in the third game to beat Zii Jia 21-13, 12-21, 21-19 in a match that lasted one hour 16 minutes.

Against Axelsen, Sen has a head-to-head record of 1-4 but the recent victory at the German Open is bound to give him confidence.

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