Teenage shuttler Lakshya Sen wants to focus on the basics

Updated: Dec 01, 2019, 08:11 IST | Sundari Iyer | Mumbai

Lakshya Sen in no mood to revel in current success of winning four titles in his first senior season; wants to focus on the basics instead.

Lakshya Sen
Lakshya Sen

Lakshya Sen's transition from the junior to the senior badminton circuit has been a smashing success. In his debut season on the senior circuit, the Almora-based teenager has won an impressive four international titles this year, the latest being the Scottish Open which came after the SaarLorLux Open last month. In October, he clinched the Dutch Open while his triumph at the Belgian International was witnessed in September.

Lakshya, 18, is elated to have achieved the target set by coach Vimal Kumar (from the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore) of finishing in the world's Top-50 before year-end. Having progressed from his World No. 109 ranking last December to his current No. 40 ranking, Lakshya is now aiming to break into the Top-30 so that he can begin playing the Super Series events. "At the start of the year, my aim was the Top-50 and I've achieved it—in fact even better.

Mother Nirmala, brother Chirag, Lakshya and father Dhirendra Sen celebrate his recent wins
Mother Nirmala, brother Chirag, Lakshya and father Dhirendra Sen celebrate his recent wins

"I'm glad to have superseded expectations in my first year on the senior circuit. My aim for next year is to make the Top-30 since then, I won't have to play the qualifiers and will directly make it to the Super Series events. First up, I'm aiming for a direct entry into the prestigious All England Championships [March 11 - 15, Birmingham]. My ultimate ambition of course is to win an Olympic medal and be World No. 1 someday," Lakshya told mid-day from Lucknow, where he was to participate in the Syed Modi International tournament.

When asked to pick his favourite from the four titles he bagged this year, Lakshya's response was quick: "The Dutch Open will always be special because that was my first Super 100 title [part of the BWF Super 100 World Tour]." Lakshya has spent most of his last three months in Denmark, training under the watchful eyes of former World No. 1 and four-time All England Championships winner Morten Frost. The stint did him a world of good as his four titles came during that phase.

Viren Rasquinha
Viren Rasquinha

"Personally, those three months in Denmark were tough because I missed Indian food. However, professionally, it was brilliant. While training under Morten sir, I also played against some of the world's top players like Denmark's Jan O Jorgensen [World No. 26], Rasmus Gemke [World No. 21] and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus [World No. 25], among others in the Danish League Division 1. Some of them were also my sparring partners, so the experience has given me a lot of confidence," added Lakshya, who currently trains with his elder brother Chirag, 21, in Bangalore.

Though he's done well internationally, Lakshya refuses to be carried away by his recent successes and insists on focusing on his basics, especially speed and stroke control. "I believe I still have a long way to go; have a lot to learn. I need to work on my fitness, speed and strokes. I need to keep working on my overall game. Wins and losses will keep coming," said Lakshya, who went down to Korean Son Wan Ho in the Syed Modi pre-quarterfinals in Lucknow.

At the recent Premier Badminton League (PBL) auction, Lakshya was picked by Chennai Superstarz for R36 lakh and though he admits money is a motivating factor, for now, he wants to repay his parents for their sacrifices. "Right now, I want to give the [PBL] money to my parents. They have sacrificed a lot for us over the years. The money is definitely a big boost for me. The PBL is great because we [Indian players] get the opportunity to share court space with some of the world's best players," he said.

Off the court, Lakshya loves expensive cars, enjoys playing video games and shopping for some of his favourite gizmos. "I love my PS4 game. When my academy friends come home, we play together. I love movies and enjoy shopping for electronic gadgets on Bangalore's MG Road. My dream is to own a Ford Mustang car one day," said Lakshya, who loves momos and pasta.

Interestingly, 2018-19 was not just a testing period for Lakshya, but for his parents too. His father Dhirendra Sen and mother Nirmala shifted residence from Almora in Uttarakhand to Bangalore last year for their son's sake.

"Right from the age of three or four, I knew Lakshya was a special talent. Badminton is in his genes—he is the third generation shuttler from our family — his grandfather [Chandra Lal Sen], myself and now him. My sons have always been away from home due to their badminton assignments and I had only around five years or so before I retire as a badminton coach [at the Sports Authority of India, Almora], so I decided to quit my job and shift to Bangalore.

"Even my wife [Nirmala] gave up teaching at the Beersheba School in Almora and came with me. Initially, it was not easy for us as we always stayed in a joint family back home. Also, it was a struggle since we didn't know many people here in Bangalore. But being a coach, I understand the importance of having a support system in place for a player. Little things like waking him up on time, ensuring he eats right or simply giving him a hug after a training session can do wonders to a player. So, we decided to be by his side. I would love to see him become World No. 1 someday," said Sen Sr.Besides family support, Lakshya has also received help and encouragement from Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), a non-profit organisation aimed at nurturing India's promising sportspersons.

OGQ's CEO Viren Rasquinha is proud of the teenager's achievements. "For us at OGQ, Lakshya's achievements come as no surprise. Prakash [Padukone] sir identified his talent at an early age [when he was just 10] and knew he was a notch above the rest. Prakash sir always believed that Lakshya has every quality of a world-class player—talent, temperament, skill, fitness and discipline. Recently, even Morten praised Lakshya a lot," said former India hockey player Rasquinha, who believes that the young shuttler's aim of achieving an Olympic medal and a World No. 1 ranking will depend on a lot of factors besides talent.

"Playing singles can put a lot of load on the body. Staying injury-free and getting adequate rest are equally important. Lakshya has to play for at least another 10 years. There is no doubt that he is the next big star in Indian badminton but he must handle it with humility and let his racquet talk. And, he need not look too far ahead for the perfect role model. He's got the best mentors in Prakash sir, Morten and Vimal Kumar," Rasquinha signed off.

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