Lakshya Sen clinched the Canada Open 2023 beating Li Shi Feng of China in the final at Calgary on Sunday. The Commonwealth Games Gold medalist from India got the better of the All England champion 21-18, 22-20.
“Coming into the Olympic qualification year, it was tough as things didn’t go my way. So this win will be a big boost to my confidence,” Sen told PTI after the win.
“I had to dig deep in some matches, the conditions were different and getting used to it was important,” the ace shuttler said.
The duo played some extraordinary rallies, filled with fast-paced exchanges at the net and it was Sen, who kept things tight to notch up his fifth win in seven meetings against the Chinese.
A former world No. 6, Sen, who claimed bronze at the 2021 World Championships, had undergone nose surgery for a deviated septum after the World Championships last August and took a lot of time to recover post-treatment.
In a battle of power and precision between the two youngsters, it was Sen, who showed better control and temperament to come up trumps against the world No. 10 from China.
Sen kept it tight at the net and produced a series of down-the-line and cross-court smashes to trouble Li Shi Feng, who fell behind 2-6 at the start of the opening game.
The duo played a high-speed game with both dishing out some eye-catching jump smashes. While Li sent down two 390kmph smashes, Sen unleashed a couple of 400 kmph thunderbolts.
At the mid-game interval, Sen managed to hold a three-point cushion after Li failed to negotiate a body return from the Indian.
Both the players sent down a series of hard smashes from the back to gather points but unforced errors saw Li fall back at 12-15. He managed to level par at 15-15 but Sen managed to grab three game points with another trademark straight smash.
Another precise return on his opponent’s forehand helped him to earn the bragging rights.
The Chinese waited for his opportunity, engaging Sen in some sensational rallies at the net and pounced on anything weak from the Indians. He grabbed the momentum after an initial duel which left them at 5-5 to soon enter the break with a four-point lead.
With Li winning the net battle, Sen tried to change his tactics and made it 13-14 at one stage. But the Chinese managed to move ahead and grabbed four game points with a powerful return which Sen miscued.
However, Sen showed his grit as a forehand body smash was followed by another hard smash. Li then faltered at the net and Sen followed it with another smash to level the score.
Another rally ended with a precise return on Li’s forehand as it was advantage Sen and he sealed it with another power-packed smash in the end.
Sen gave ample display of his temperament as he saved four game points in the second game to grab a championship point and sealed it on very first opportunity with a smash and collapsed on the court in relief and happiness after an intense match.
In the first round, Lakshya had to dig deep to stun second seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand 21-18 21-15 and in the second round defeated Brazil’s Ygor Coelho de Oliveira 21-15, 21-11. Lakshya was made to work hard by his German opponent Julien Carraggi in the third round but pravailed 21-8, 17-21, 21-10. In the semi-final, Lasksya vanquished Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto 21-17, 21-14.
It was, in fact, Lakshya’s first summit clash of the year having last played a final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August 2022 and also his second appearance in the final of BWF World Tour Super 500 event.
The 21-year-old slipped out of top-10 with a slew of first round exits this year. The 19-ranked Lakshya has suffered first-round exits in four events with his best performance being the Indonesia Masters in January where he reached the quarter-finals.
Sen has been is battling to regain form after he underwent a nose surgery for a deviated septum after the World Championships last August. The surgery was followed by frequent illness and allergies for over eight months.
The BWF World Tour is divided into six levels, namely World Tour Finals, four Super 1000, six Super 750, seven Super 500, and 11 Super 300.
One other category of the tournament, the BWF Tour Super 100 level, also offers ranking points.
(With inputs from Agencies)