Lakshya Sen falters in semi-finals at All England Open

Lakshya Sen in action (Photo: BAI)

Lakshya Sen was defeated but not disgraced as he lost in three games to Jonatan Cristie in the semi-finals of the All England Badminton Championship in Birmingham on Saturday.

The Indian looked jaded in the first game, but fought strongly in the second. What Lakshya had perhaps not anticipated, was how fast the Indonesian was on his legs. He also showed great anticipation to win 21-12, 10-21, 21-15 in 68 minutes. On Sunday, Cristie will face Anthony Ginting, also from Indonesia, for the trophy.

The cynic may say Lakshya faltered in the semi-finals, but the truth is he had to physically battle from a hard quarter-final on Friday night, where he outslugged Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia in a tight match lasting 70 minutes.

Lakshya had talked of how recovery would be important for the semi-final. He does have the right mentor and coach in Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar to guide him, plus a team of physios and trainers. However, only the player competing can explain how crazy it is to be ready for a big match again in less than a day.

Yes, Lakshya, after getting whacked in the first game, did show great flourish in the second game. He was bouncing on his feet, produced strokes which caught the eye. Fans were also rooting for him, which saw him take a mini lead in the third game.

Hats off to Crisite for bouncing back like a man possessed in the most crucial stage of the third game. There was grace in his languid movement on the court and with his right wrist gripping the racquet like a magic wand, he produced strokes of delight.

Cristie packed power as well as showed cunning. If he used the power to whack the smash, he was also proficient in finding the angles to leave Lakshya laden footed in the third game climax.

Cristie looked energetic. His hunger for the win was much more as he was ready to show great mental strength. For those who think this loss will hurt Lakshya, there are many positives. He had made the semi-finals in Paris last week and produced the same effort in Birmingham.

Two finishes in the last-four stage are more than consolation as the big picture is making the grade for the Paris Olympics. The closing list will come out on April 28, and by then if Lakshya is in the top 16, he will make the cut, hopefully with HS Prannoy.

One has to go back to January 2024, when Lakshya had no clue what was happening to his game. He spoke to this writer and talked of how all the training he was doing was right but he was not winning. Rebuilding brick by brick and coming this far is now a reality.

The best part is, physically, Lakshya was tired but there was no niggle or injury. He will get the juices back and focus on how he has to play the tournaments ahead. To have Prakash and Vimal as his guides is a blessing.

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