With five titles under his belt, Lakshya Sen was racing towards the top echelons of international badminton before his stunning run was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought all competitive action to a halt across the world.
With the world in lockdown to contain the deadly disease, Lakshya too is enduring the uncertain times within the confines of his apartment, near the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bengaluru.
“I was looking forward to play big tournaments, compete against better players and try to make it to top 15 this year. But then everything stopped suddenly, all tournaments suspended. Now I don’t know when they will resume,” Lakshya told PTI.
The 18-year-old from Uttarakhand was in sensational form in the senior circuit last year as he claimed as many as five titles, including two BWF World Tour Super 100 top honours — SaarLorLux Open and Dutch Open — to zoom to 32nd rank by the end of the year.
He is currently placed 27th in the world rankings.
He continued his good run early this year, claiming a big win over Asian Games gold-medallist Jonathan Christie of Indonesia at the Badminton Asia Team Championships and then putting up an impressive show against former world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the second round of the All England Championships.
Lakshya was looking forward to the Swiss Open (March 17-22) but All England turned out to be the last tournament before the BWF suspended all action.
In fact, he was in the middle of the tournament when government’s travel restrictions came into force.
“I had a match to play (second round) when the Ministry had announced travel restrictions. I didn’t think much about it but by the time I had played my match, BWF had cancelled the tournaments.
“So, we booked tickets and returned. Initially our plans was to go to Swiss from there,” said the soft-spoken Indian.
Lakhsya has been at home since returning to the country and has his family with him.
He has got the company of his mother, his brother Chirag Sen, who is also an international shuttler, and father D K Sen, who has been coaching at the PPBA after taking voluntary retirement from the Sports Authority of India.
In a bid to retain the fun of playing the sport, the Sen family decided to clear out an area in the drawing room.
“I believe something is better than nothing. So we have removed the dining table and other furniture in the drawing room to create some space for them to play for fun, at least they can have a feel of the racquet in hand,” the senior Sen said.
“Sometimes they work on net play, or just work on service because you can’t play shots like tosses or smashes inside the room, in this little space.” Was he impressed with Lakshya’s game against Viktor?
“Well, he was playing well in All England but he made some mistakes in crucial points. I believe he will need to show more maturity when he takes on big and experienced players,” he said in a rather dispassionate assessment.
With courts out of bound, Lakshya and Chirag are also trying to keep themselves fit.
“We train for sometime in morning and evening, we do exercises like skipping, body weight, core workout, agility training and some wall exercises. We are given weekly schedule from the academy,” Lakshya said.
“Rest of the time, we watch movies and play games on playstation. I do feel restless a bit because there is not much we can do but training helps. “It is after a pretty long time that I have got this break, generally when you are injured you get such a break,” he signed off.