Indian badminton has been experiencing a renaissance of late. With the emergence of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu and lesser lights such as Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa and Valiyaveetil Diju, badminton in the country has come on leaps and bounds. By winning the Thomas Cup, the Indian badminton contingent has taken a step further on the world stage. Among the four, young Lakshya Sen has made quite the impression. His all-court game was on display as he bested Indonesian World No 4 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16 in an epic slugfest.
The Man Behind the Boy
Thomas Cup coach Vimal Kumar remembers the first time he laid eyes on young Lakshya. A young boy of eight, he was full of mischief and prone to breaking into tears when caught mid-prank. Yet his dedication to badminton never wavered. Over the years, the Almora boy would mature steadily, adding deft net-play to his almost obsessive desire to jump and smash. His on-court intelligence has also grown, so has his belief. None of which has escaped the keen eyes of his long time coach. “Something’s changed totally. He feels like he can get these big wins. It’s some steel, determination that’s suddenly noticeable in him. I told him many, many times that ‘When you are on the fringes, you can be dropped anytime. You need to become the best player, so that they come and say we want you to play in the team”, gushed Vimal to PTI.
It is advice he has taken to heart, constantly working to improve his game. So much so that he has spent extended periods working with two great Danish masters from across two generations: Marten Frost and Viktor Axelsen.
Much is expected of the 20-year-old, and he seems intent on delivering on these expectations. In fact, the last few months have had much to write home about. Breaking into the top-10 was quite the milestone, delivering India’s first Thomas Cup- defeating Denmark and record champions Indonesia in the process- was just the necessary next step in what he hopes will be a long and trophy-laden career.