The 20-year-old from Uttarakhand has been sensational en route to the men’s singles final at Birmingham, and he attributed his transformation to the experience of playing in Indonesia and the World Championships last year.
He also said the hard work he put in to improve his fitness during the COVID-19 pandemic, helped.
“I had a lot of time in the pandemic where I could improve my fitness to the next level. As a junior player I would go on attack and play smashes all the time but, in big venues, you have to play a patient game and build on those winners and then go for attack,” he said.
“I played a lot of tournaments after the pandemic, especially in Indonesia and World championships and it gave me the self-belief and realisation that I can’t go for attack all the time and have to play a patient game and the transformation happened there.
“Those matches against Viktor (Axelsen), Kento Momota and Kenta Tsukamoto also gave me the confidence to play. A lot has changed since I played Viktor in 2020. There is a difference in my approach and now I have the self-belief to go out there and beat the big players.”
The rise of Lakshya Sen
Sen achieved a career-best ranking of world number 9 and he said it will help him to qualify for big events and also get a good draw in world tour events.
“I have to keep the ranking in mind because it will help me to qualify for big events like the Olympics and I also have to keep myself fit going into big events.
“This world number 9 ranking will also help me with the draw and I will not have to play any top player till quarters, so I am focussed on winning tournaments.”
Sen said he is enjoying all the attention that he has been getting and remains confident that his strong team will be there to guide him as opponents will now scrutinise his game.
“Yes, definitely. Last six months when people are talking about me and at the same time when you are playing in the circuit, players look out for you and they will read my game and I think I am happy that all these things are happening.
“There have been a lot of changes, I have a strong team around me and a lot of people I can talk to and people to guide me. I am always learning.”
Sen said at international level one “needs to have an overall game and depending on conditions have to adapt”.
“One has to have everything in your tool bag to use it when required. It depends on players and court conditions.”
Lakshya said the semifinal win over defending champion Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia at All England, where he attacked in the last few points, is the most memorable match of his career.
“The All England semifinal is the most memorable match that I pulled out with a crowd supporting both of us and I would say in Indonesia, I played Momota and Viktor 2-2 times each, I was losing very closely and it was frustrating but it was big learning,” he said.
“When you are a few points behind, you need to try different things at those moments. Against Lee Zii Jia, I changed my pace and played attacking. My strategy is to go on the offence for one or two points, not give that upper hand to opponents.”
Talking about the All England final, Sen said: “The atmosphere and everything made me nervous before the match and starting from the toss, where he chose the perfect end and could take control from the beginning was important.
“Toss made a big difference. I could have taken more control in the beginning but the lead was too much and so it was hard for me. I played well in the second, I got rhythm and if I could have taken it then I could have had a chance.”
Asked if he could sleep after that loss, Sen said: “There are two different things. When you go on to court and give everything and you lose, you are not really sad about it, then you have to give credit to your opponent and move on from those losses.”
His father and coach DK Sen, who was also present during the interaction, revealed that “Lakshya would cry if he is losing but he would keep playing”.
“There would be tears in his eyes but it wouldn’t have any effect on his strategy or game. People used to think we were putting pressure on him, so we would ask him why he cries and he said that he couldn’t help it. So we realised it was his strength.”