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Indian shuttlers resume action at Denmark Open, teenager Lakshya Sen keen to seize chance

Lakshya Sen is back on familiar turf in Denmark where he will be a top draw from India in men’s singles at the Danisa Denmark Open in Odense city starting on Tuesday. The $750,000 tournament will herald the resumption of international badminton after seven months.

A year ago, Sen’s senior international career got off to a flying start in Europe. He won four tournaments, including his first BWF Tour title at the Dutch Open. Based in Aarhus, Sen made the most of his training stint under badminton legend Morten Frost and competed in the Danish league.

At the All England Championships in March, he put up a strong fight against eventual champion Viktor Axelsen in the second round. The efforts lifted Sen, 19, to a career-high world No. 27.

The pandemic then halted his progress. After two-and-half months away from the court, Sen resumed training at Bengaluru’s Prakash Padukone academy in early June.

“It was a long break. I’ve been training for the last four months and feel confident and excited to compete again. I do not have big expectations. Nobody has played on the circuit for a long time and everyone is in the same situation. Many top players have also pulled out so it is also a good opportunity for me,” Sen said from Denmark.

“Last year, I was able to give consistent performances. It has given me confidence. I’ve played in these conditions (though) I am playing a Super 750 event for the first time. It is an opportunity to see how I handle pressure.”

First up, Sen faces junior world No. 1 Christo Popov. The Indian enjoys a 3-1 win-loss record against the 17-year-old Frenchman. Their most recent duel was in the Scottish Open where Sen beat him in tough three games. “He is a good player and plays at a fast pace, so I have to be at a good level right from the start,” he said.

After the Denmark Open, Sen would defend his title at the SaarLorLux Open in Germany, from Oct 27. He will also have a training stint at the Peter Gade academy. Kidambi Srikanth, Ajay Jayaram and Subhankar Dey are also competing at the Denmark Open.

Unlike what has become the new normal due to Covid-19, players won’t have to play in empty stadiums. Badminton World Federation has allowed a maximum of 500 spectators daily into the Odense Sportspark following strict health protocols. As per the BWF protocols, “the bubble system does allow athletes to move in a limited way outside the hotel and the venue.”

Vimal Kumar, Sen’s coach, was happy at the resumption of tournaments. “The good thing is they are getting a chance to play. Our players have not got any match practice, which is so important in a racquet sport. Other European and Asian country players were competing in their local events,” he said.

Kumar had arranged competition as well in his Bengaluru academy. “I wanted to include other senior players, but it wasn’t possible. Whatever we could do, we’ve done for Lakshya. He looks fit and when he plays we will know his match fitness.”

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