The Then and Now story of Lakshya Sen

The Then and Now story of Lakshya Sen

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The way a shuttler plays, their form, and fitness keeps changing innumerable times through the course of their career. SportsCafe in its new series, 'Then vs Now', tries to track some of these changes a player's career goes through, which have a positive or a negative effect overall.

A span of 10 months is a decent enough time to study and analyse a player's performance, especially in badminton, where one ends up playing 15-16 tournaments in this time. While it would be safe to say that Lakshya Sen, a World Championship bronze medallist did exceed the expectations in 2021, that wasn't particularly the case in 2022; or perhaps the hopes of him doing well in every tournament he played, increased twofold.

That is bound to happen when at a young age, a player becomes the best in his country surpassing other stalwarts and consistently beating big names around the world. But that is where the challenge comes from; to keep up the intensity, and to be able to bring something new to the table. This is something he would have to learn quickly, or rather immediately. And to ensure all this happens, his coach and mentor Vimal Kumar is constantly by his side.

Back in March 2022, Vimal, who knows it all about Lakshya, was asked about the way he trained, his style of play if the lad had any pressure on him. The same set of questions was asked to him during the India Open 2023, to see if there is any change in the Lakshya we see at present.


In December 2021, Lakshya had won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Spain and followed it up with a win at the India Open. He was then a runner-up in Germany and All England Championship. Not to forget a gold at the Commonwealth Games as well. These performances were a sign that he wasn't taking any pressure, and coach Vimal testified to the fact. 

In an interview with SportsCafe, Vimal had said, "It is too early to talk about pressure on him. For now, we just want to let him play and focus on the game. I don't think he would have ever thought about it..we don't think that way either. Right now the priority is to play tournaments, and do the best that we can; he is just at the start of his career, so it is not the way to look at things."

That was also the time, Lakshya, riding on a high, wanted to bring about a change in the way he approached a tournament; sans a coach by his side, just like Viktor Axelsen prefers it. Not to forget, the stamp of approval came from his team. "He saw Viktor training alone, right from the planning to the execution. There was an immense focus that he showed. This is what appealed to him. So when he went for the European leg, he was on his own, without any coach, for the two-month-long circuit. He had no support of any kind there. He played most of the matches with his own thinking, of course, a little bit of advising was there, but on the court, he implemented his own plans.

"Since he was doing all this alone, he learned a lot, and one of the biggest takeaways has to be the patience that has come in his game and handling different situations. Earlier, he used to hate playing against defensive players, but now he is better equipped to play them. I think all this has contributed to his all-around development. Even when we are exchanging messages, I can see he is thinking better."

That was also the time when only three-month targets were set for him, which actually worked for him for a while. Staying in the present, as cliche it may sound, was a strength as per the coach. "With Lakshya, we have a simple motto, don't look too far ahead. Don't think about the Olympics already, and remain in the present.  So if we have given him 10 tournaments to play in a year, then he really knows which are the important ones. Emphasis is also on having three-month targets, after which review the performance and lay down a new plan."


Cut to January 2023, the performances have taken a hit, just a bit, going by his own mighty high standards. Post the CWG, he lost in the pre-quarters of the World Championship to HS Prannoy and exited from the Japan Open, Hylo Open, and French Open in the first rounds. This time around, coach Vimal couldn't help but claim that there is indeed a lot of pressure on his ward. Pressure to improve, the pressure to defend points, and the pressure to make it to the Olympics. 

"Oh, there is a lot of pressure on him now for sure. In the last 10 months, he certainly became the best player for India and got to a world ranking of six or seven. Then he got injured, exited early from tournaments and his ranking slipped, so that is pressure. In may the Olympic qualification process starts, and you have to defend points here, so this is pressure, these are things a player has to cope with," Vimal told SportsCafe on the opening day of India Open.

The veteran coach did not mince his words in saying that Lakshya didn't play the best badminton in the last three months. In fact, he also listed out the factors which did not help his case. "He hasn’t been doing well the last three months. He had to go through, a septoplasty surgery, and couldn’t recover properly from it. 

"He was constantly having problems with his throat. Like overnight, he’ll be okay, and after a night's sleep, he would have a fever and throat pain. I think he still hasn’t fully recovered from that. So that has been the issue for him. Basically, he is a little injury prone, he runs around jumps around, and that’s how he plays. That is what I keep telling him, he needs to take care of his body and fitness," he added.

Although Vimal remains to be one of the main figures for Lakshya on the badminton court, a recent change has been brought in his coaching team. Former Asian Championships bronze medalist, Anup Sridhar has joined Lakshya as a consultant. "it is something new we are trying at the moment, and Anup has a lot to offer to Lakshya. After the CWG we tried out a Korean coach, but the communication was not great. Then a few weeks back Anup was brought in. So the next few weeks will be crucial for him, and we would love to see him back to winning tournaments," Vimal concluded. 

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