Despite returning to competitive badminton for the first time since March, the Indian shuttler showed no signs of rust.
India’s Lakshya Sen cruised into the second round of the Denmark Open 2020 after a comfortable 21-9, 21-15 win over Frenchman Christo Popov in the opening round of the badminton tournament at Odense on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Sen, seeded seventh in the singles event of the Super 750 tournament, will next play Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus, who beat Belgian shuttler *Maxime Moreels *21-13, 21-8 in their first round clash.
Lakshya Sen and Popov went toe-to-toe in the opening stages of the first game but with the score at 5-4, Lakshya Sen began to break away, picking up three points on the trot to open up a four-point lead.
The 17-year-old junior world No. 1 Popov attempted to break the Indian’s momentum, attacking with some solid smashes but Sen held his position in mid-court, defending with poise. The Frenchman, however, did manage to cut the deficit down to two points.
With the score at 10-8, however, it was Sen’s turn to go on the offensive as he worked his angles and made the Frenchman toil to return every shot.
Popov had no answers to the Indian’s variations of smashes and drop shots as the Indian took his next 11 points whilst conceding just one to win the first game 21-9.
Trailing, the Frenchman took a visibly more aggressive stance in the second game but Lakshya Sen responded in kind. It was the Indian who led 11-10 at the mid-game interval.
Tied at 12-12, there was a visible change in Sen’s strategy as he resorted to drawing Popov to the net and then sending him to the endline with alternate shots and varying it up occasionally to catch his French opponent off guard.
The ploy worked as the Indian clinched the next three points and eventually opened up a decisive 20-14 gap.
Popov won the next point to delay Lakshya Sen’s win but it eventually ended 21-15 in favour of the Indian. With the win, Lakshya also extended his head-to-head record against the young Frenchman to 4-1.
"I moved quite well, that was the key,” reckoned Lakshya Sen. “In the second game he had a lead but I had made a few mistakes and I was able to cut down on them and find my rhythm.
“I'm very happy to be playing again after seven months and it felt very normal on court,” added the Indian shuttler.