Lakshya Sen was always marked out for big success. But to have a world championship podium finish as your breakthrough performance is the stuff of dreams.
Following a career-defining week in Huelva (Spain), where he secured a historic bronze at the BWF World Championships and rose to a career-best singles ranking of 17, the 20-year-old is brimming with confidence.
“To end the season with a worlds bronze feels great,” Lakshya said, here on Thursday. “It was really tough in the last two tournaments. But they were the biggest, the World Championship and the World Tour Finals. I was motivated to go all out.”
In a way, Lakshya is blessed to have mentors and coaches in legends Prakash Padukone and Morten Frost and the astute U. Vimal Kumar. Frost’s inputs have especially been crucial in prepping him up for elite-level badminton.
The great Dane was brought in as a consultant coach at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, where Lakshya trains, in early 2019, with Frost himself expressing hope that he can “help some of the players there be world-beaters one day.”
“In 2019, we went to Denmark for three months,” Lakshya recollected. “When I started working with him, I was around 110 in the rankings and after that I moved into the top-30. He changed my game style a bit. He helped me construct points and rally better and when I entered the senior circuit, it really helped me improve my overall game.”
“When I was in juniors, I was a lot more attacking. I am still a naturally attacking player, but when you are playing at the higher levels, you cannot win a point in just three or four shots. Someone like [Kento] Momota is very solid in his defence. So you have to move him around, mix it up with drop shots, half-smashes etc.”
Training with Olympic gold medallist Viktor Axelsen in Dubai in September had its perks too, so did the four competitive matches Lakshya played against the Dane and Japanese star Momota in the last month alone.
“They were tough draws but those matches gave me confidence. I got into the rhythm of playing continuously. Game-wise, I was sharper after training with Axelsen. Just before the tournaments I feel that was needed because I hadn’t played that many competitions.”
It is perhaps natural now that Lakshya is aiming big. “I feel confident that I can play on the big stage and get a win,” he says.
“Next year, there is the Asian Games, All-England and Commonwealth Games next year. I will be playing other tournaments as well, but these will be my targets. I will be expecting a lot more but I will still have to be patient and work hard.”