India’s Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian to reach the men’s singles final at the 2021 badminton world championships, but his semi-final opponent Lakshya Sen put up a valiant effort to earn praise from everyone, including Srikanth.
On Saturday at Huelva, Spain, the 20-year-old Lakshya had one foot in the final halfway through the match against Kidambi Srikanth. He won the first game 21-17 and even led 8-4 in the second before Srikanth fought back to seal the win.
“Credit to him (Lakshya), I think he has been playing really well. I am just very happy for him,” Kidambi Srikanth told Olympics.com.
Former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth heaped praise on Lakshya Sen, having watched him grow from a young shuttler from Almora, Uttarakhand to a world-class player.
“Lakshya’s father (DK Sen) was the first coach when I went to the sub-junior Asian badminton championships. I have known his father since 2008. So, I have been watching Lakshya’s progress since he was under 10,” Srikanth revealed.
A Youth Olympics silver medallist, Lakshya Sen has been in good touch this year, upsetting much more accomplished players in the 2021 season.
“Even in this tournament, he pulled out from some really close matches. I really like him. Lakshya is very young, passionate and works hard for it,” Kidambi said.
Lakshya Sen, making his first world badminton championships appearance, knocked out world No. 17 Kenta Nishimoto and Tokyo 2020 semi-finalist Kevin Cordon on his way to the semi-finals.
Earlier this year, Lakshya Sen defeated three-time junior world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn at the Hylo Open and even made former world champion Kento Momota work hard for a win at the Indonesia Open last month.
Lakshya Sen ended the year with a bronze at the world championship, becoming the fourth Indian man to win a medal at the big-ticket event.
“I am extremely happy to see where he has reached today. Lakshya definitely has a lot of potential,” Srikanth said.
Kidambi Srikanth is currently a world No. 14 and is the top-ranked male Indian badminton player. Lakshya Sen is ranked 19th overall and third in India after B Sai Praneeth.
“The fans deserve something like this because we have some really good players in the men’s singles,” Lakshya Sen pointed out. “There are a few Indian players in the (world) top 30 so it’s good that two of them played in the semi-finals of the world championships.
“I know (Srikanth) well,” Lakshya added. “We practice together sometimes so we know what to expect from each other but in the end, it was just another match.”