Lakshya clinches Asia Junior Championship title (Photo- Twitter/BAI)
Lakshya Sen on Sunday became only the third Indian shuttler to secure a gold medal at the Asia Junior Championships after defeating reigning world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in straight games in the finals at Jakarta.
The sixth seeded Indian from Uttarakhand, who had won a bronze medal in the last edition of the competition, notched up 21-19, 21-18 upset win over Vitidsarn in the summit clash that clocked 46 minutes.
"I am happy to win the tournament. It will boost my confidence. I played in the team event and then in the individual event, so it was a long tournament. The focus was on recovering well after each match and I am happy I could play well and win," Lakshya told PTI.
The win against second-seed Chinese the other night helped me. I carried my confidence further and beat the fourth-seed in the semi-finals. And today, I played my natural game to beat Kunlavut. Since it was our first meeting, I played freely without any pressure,” he added.
Late Gautam Thakkar (1965) and Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu (2012) had won the prestigious title earlier. Sindhu had won a bronze as well in 2011, while Sameer Verma won a silver and bronze in 2011 and 2012 and the pair Pranav Chopra/Prajkta Sawant bagged a bronze in 2009.
Lakshya has been sensational in the tournament as he stunned second seed Chinese Li Shifeng, fourth seed Indonesian Ikhsan Leonardo Imanuel Rumbay in the semifinals and top seed Vitidsarn in the final.
"It was very hectic. In fact, ahead of the tournament I had to tweak my training a bit as I had suffered shin splints. During the tournament also, I had to take pills sometimes to curb the pain," he said.
"Overall, it was a good tournament. I have played with all these top players before, so I knew their game."
Lakshya was cautious in his approach and started trailing by a few points in the first game before he caught up at 9-9 and then used his customary drop shots and half-court smashes to go ahead 13-11. He didn't look back there after despite his rival coming close to him at 16-15.
In the second game, Lakshya led with a slender margin but managed to maintain a two-point lead almost all the time.
However, midway through Kunlavut inched closer to his opponent and was trailing by a mere single point at 10-11.
Yet, there was no real threat to the six-seeded Indian who upped the ante and forced Kunlavut into errors at the net, gaining a four-point lead.
Not to be outdone, the Indonesian reduced the margin but it was too late for him to stage a real recovery.
India's junior national coach Sanjay Mishra showered praise on Lakshya.
"Winning any tournament is a big thing and he has clinched the gold in a tournament where the best of world competes. We know Asia is the hub of badminton and winning the Asia title will give him a big boost," he said.
"The Thai player was playing more of a rally game and he was getting points, so we decided to change the strategy and finish it quick. It helped as Lakshya started dominating the proceedings."