Senior Nationals: Lakshya's fairytale ends in final

15-year-old Lakshya Sen stumbled at the final hurdle of the 81st National badminton championship on Tuesday with a 21-13, 21-12 defeat to Sourabh Verma. In the women's category, Rituparna Das clinched the title, defeating Reshma Karthik.

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Lakshya Sen of Uttarakhand in action against Sourabh Verma in the final of the men's singles.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

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Sourabh Verma with the trophy.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

There was a huge buzz ahead of the men’s final of the 81st National badminton championship at the Patliputra Sports Complex here, on Tuesday, between Lakshya Sen, the 15-year-old, and an experienced Sourabh Verma, the third seed. Bereft of star players such as K. Srikanth, Ajay Jayaram and P. Kashyap in the men and Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu among the women, Lakshya provided the much-needed spark to the event that will be remembered for some time to come.

Even though the Uttarakhand teenager lost tamely to Sourabh 21-13, 21-12, this edition will be known primarily for his exploits.

Earlier, Rituparna Das of Telangana, the second seed, bagged the women’s title, defeating Reshma Karthik of Air India 21-12, 21-14 in the final. This is her first win after having reached the final twice in 2013 (New Delhi) & 2015 (Vijayawada).

Much was expected from Lakshya, but Sourabh came out with all guns blazing. From the start, he hardly put a foot wrong. His net play was sharp, his forehand and backhand drops dropped close to the net, hardly giving Lakshya any chance to net flick and get back into the rally.

Authoritative win

Briefly in the first game, Lakshya produced shots he’s known for; deft drops, effective forehand smashes and solid defence. Sourabh was always ahead in the game and from 10-all, the momentum shifted in favour of Sourabh permanently. Ranked.No. 41 in the world, Sourabh turned on the accelerator further with his jump smashes that even Lakshya couldn't do much about.

Sourabh never allowed Lakshya any leeway in the second game, too. Wonderful net play and pin-point smashes to the vacant spaces or to Lakshya’s body marked the third seed's strategy. After taking a 15-6 lead, Sourabh didn’t look back. “I did beat him in the Syed Modi International tournament recently. So, I knew how to play him,” said Sourabh, who bagged his second National title.

There were hardly any long rallies in the women's summit clash. Reshma made numerous mistakes from the backcourt. Her overhead crosscourt drops and net play that enabled her to beat sixth-seeded Anura Prabhudesai and the top seed Tanvi Lad, failed her. And Rituparna being a consistent player rode mainly on Reshma's unforced errors.

"This time, I had an easy draw. That made it easy for me. I will now focus on International tournaments and improve my world rankings which is at 55 at the moment," said Das.

Meanwhile, R. Satwik Sai Raj of Andhra Pradesh bagged a 'double' winning the men's doubles (with Chirag Shetty) and mixed (with K. Maneesha).

The results (finals)

Men’s singles: Sourabh Verma (Pet) bt Lakshya Sen (Utr) 21-13, 21-12; doubles: R. Satwik Sai Raj (AP) & Chirag Shetty (AAI) bt K. Nanda Gopal (Cht) & Sanyam Shukla (AI) 21-17, 16-21, 21-14.

Women’s singles: Rituparna Das (Tel) bt Reshma Karthik (Air India) 21-12, 21-14; doubles: Aparna Balan & Prajakta Sawant (Pet) bt Shikha Gautham (Kar) & Sanyogita Ghorpade (Mah) 21-9, 21-11.

Mixed doubles: R. Satwik Sai Raj (AP) & K. Maneesha (AI) bt Venket Gaurav Prasad & Juhi Dewangan (Cht) 21-14, 21-18.

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