Lakshya Sen is learning to construct longer rallies with counsel from greats like Prakash Padukone and Dane legend Morten Frost
Image: Madhu Kapparath
Styling: Ankit Mishra. Wardrobe: Rare Rabbit
Lakshya Sen, 20
When he was 10, Lakshya Sen had come to Bengaluru with older brother Chirag and father DK Sen, then a badminton coach at Sports Authority of India, Almora, to play a junior ranking tournament at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA).
“We were more keen on taking Chirag in, but his father insisted we have a look at him too,” says Vimal Kumar, a Dronacharya awardee coach and the PPBA director. “Lakshya was very young, but what stood out back then was his ability to keep the shuttle in play without making too many mistakes.”
Sen stayed back at the academy, where his grandfather accompanied him for the first month to help him settle down. The move paid rich dividends: A decade later, at 20, Sen is leading the charge for Indian men’s badminton on the world stage.
In 2021, he became the youngest Indian to qualify for the BWF World Tour Finals, a sparring ground for the top eight shuttlers for the year; he followed it up with a bronze at the prestigious BWF World Championships, emulating mentor and legend Prakash Padukone
. Sen has carried his spectacular form into 2022, winning the India Open beating world champion Loh Kean Yew. The win pushed him up to a career-best No 13 in world rankings.
“When the tournaments were cancelled due to Covid, I got a lot of time to work on my strength and stamina. It helped me improve my fitness,” says Sen, when asked about the lead-up to his breakthrough year. It also helped that just ahead of the season, Sen got an invite from World No 1 Viktor Axelsen to train with him in Dubai. “The one-on-ones we had, with Viktor as well as Loh Kean Yew, who was also present during those two weeks, helped me raise match fitness, alertness on court and gave me enormous confidence.”
When he was a junior, Sen would look to win quick points, but in the senior circuit, he is learning to construct longer rallies, with counsel from greats like Padukone and former Dane legend Morten Frost. He feels there are two key attributes to succeeding in the highly-competitive senior tour: Discipline, a quality Padukone
harps on, and professionalism, something he picks up from watching international sports, especially his favourite footballer Belgian Kevin De Bruyne. “I also see a lot of sports movies and watch closely how professionals improve their game,” says Sen. “I really liked the one on [sprinter] Usain Bolt.”
“Lakshya can absorb lessons fast,” says Kumar. “And he knows when to execute them. If he wants something, he will get it done. And if something is not working, he is always willing to change. These are the qualities of a champion.”
(This story appears in the 25 February, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)