Former India coach Vimal Kumar is impressed with the performance of Lakshya Sen at the India Open.
Sen stunned world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore 24-22, 21-17 in the men’s singles final to clinch his maiden Super 500 crown on Sunday.
“Lakshya was tactically much better, he was in control of the match, never allowed Loh to attack. His counter-attack was very good. His net dribbles were excellent and with the same action he was flicking the shuttle to the back of the court. Overall, he played a very mature game,” Vimal told PTI .
“He is at par with anybody, but he still needs to work on his tactical side, strength and conditioning. He can work on stability around the net areas, his endurance can be better. So, technically there are all the areas where he can work on,” he said.
Tough road ahead
Vimal warned there was a tough road ahead for Sen.
“There are many youngsters from Europe, Thailand and Japan, who will be gunning for him now. It will be tough ahead. I don’t want to put pressure on him by talking about the 2024 Olympics, it’s all about how best he can play, how best he can take care of his body,” he added.
Sen was not selected to represent India at the Sudirman Cup mixed team competition in Finland and the Thomas Cup Finals in Aarhus, Denmark, after he lost his first match to Sai Charan Koya at the round-robin group stage during the selection trials. But a training stint with Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and Loh Kean Yew in Dubai rejuvenated him.
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“He was shattered after missing the Sudirman Cup and Thomas Cup,” said Vimal, who has guided Sen since his young age as part of the Padukone Dravid Centre for Excellence (PDCE) in Bengaluru.
“But then (Viktor) Axelsen phoned him and invited him for a two week training stint in Dubai. Loh was also there. So he stayed there and trained. That stint helped him to brush aside the disappointment,” he said.
A rejuvenated Sen entered the final at the Dutch Open, played some close matches against Japan’s Kento Momota, reached the semifinals at Hylo, and reached the knockout stage at World Tour Finals on debut before sizzling at the World Championships with a bronze.
“Right from Europe circuit, he has been consistent in last three months. It is very important that he plays consistently well from now on. This performance will give him a clear understanding where he stands.”
Vimal, a former Olympian, said Sen, known for his attacking game, in the last few months had shown he can outlast his opponents in gruelling three-game matches, too. “There has been criticism in the past that once his attack doesn’t work, he runs out of ideas. But in World Championships, he played some tremendous rallies, and long exhausting matches and prevailed in those long matches and that gave him the confidence,” he said.
“He is playing better badminton overall and he is grabbing the opportunities. In the semifinals, it was tough against the Malaysian but he pulled through, he employed his smashes well. Also against H. S. Prannoy he had a long match, winning these matches shows his maturity.”
“Many players can’t get that breakthrough, can’t convert opportunities. But Lakshya has the ability to beat good players.”
Sen was in rampaging form three years ago, winning five titles including two Super 100 tournaments before COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the BWF circuit. “He was in good rhythm in 2019 but the pandemic was a damper. If he could have had that opportunity, I was confident that he could have qualified for Tokyo,” Vimal said.
“Many players suffered due to the pandemic, sometimes it kills the spirit of youngsters when you are not able to compete. I am glad he survived that phase and found the enthusiasm to play.”