Updated March 16th, 2024 at 23:48 IST

Lakshya Sen signs off with creditable semifinal finish at All England

Star shuttler Lakshya Sen missed his date with history after stumbling to a three-game loss against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie in the semifinals of the All England Championships here on Saturday, prolonging India's long wait for the coveted trophy.

Lakshya Sen | Image:PTI
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Star shuttler Lakshya Sen missed his date with history after stumbling to a three-game loss against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie in the semifinals of the All England Championships here on Saturday, prolonging India's long wait for the coveted trophy.

In a game of fine margins, the 22-year-old, who had finished runner-up in the 2022 edition, was marginally short as he slipped to a 21-12, 10-21, 15-21 defeat to world No. 9 Christie, the 2018 Asian Games gold medallist, after a 68-minute smash-fest.

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"I am pretty disappointed with the result but, overall, the way I played, surely, I have the level to be there and win the big tournaments," Sen said after the match.

"I have been through some tough patches before this, but there has been lot of support for me in social media but I couldn't do my best today. I made some easy mistakes." Christie will now face fellow Indonesian Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in Sunday's final.

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Sen, who reached the semifinals of French Open Super 750 the previous week, has been on court for 491 minutes playing some nerve-wrecking badminton in the last 11 days and, perhaps, those gruelling three-setters might have taken their toll on him as he ran out of steam in the semis.

But those back-to-back semifinal finishes are likely to lock his Paris Olympic berth when the BWF rankings are published by April end.

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"All the matches that I played were long so I could feel it in the recovery, in the next day match preparation. All of them were required to win for that particular day," Sen said.

"Some of the matches I started really slow in the first set and having a good lead but not being able to convert in the first setter. This is one thing I would want to close matches in two games." On Friday night, Sen had displayed great mental resolve for a stunning 20-22, 21-16, 21-19 win over former champion Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia to progress to the men's singles semifinals.

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In the semis, it turned out to be a battle of smashes as the two attacking players rained down 350-plus kmph thunderbolts during the tight rallies.

Sen made an extremely slow start as Christie read the game well and took the shuttle early to dominate the proceedings. Soon he was 11-7 up when Sen sprayed one wide.

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The Indonesian punished anything marginally short from the Indian and swelled the lead to 17-10 with another powerful cross court smash.

Another net error and wide smash from the Indian took Christie to eight game points and he sealed it with a winner.

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The momentum, however, completely shifted after the change of sides with Sen taking more initiative to lead 7-3.

It was Christie who was making a series of unforced errors now.

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One such net error and a wide shot gave a massive 11-3 advantage to the Indian, who made it 13-3 when he sent back a towering smash from the Indonesian with a backhand block.

Christie tried to change things but his errors held him back as Sen moved to 17-5.

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A 379kmph smash took Sen to 18-6. The Indian even managed to play a behind-the-back return during a flat out exchange but Christie managed to win the rally and soon moved to 9-18, trying to break Sen's rhythm.

But Sen moved to 10 game points when Christie went wide and sealed it with a precise on-the-line smash.

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In the decider, Sen constructed the rallies well initially using calculated strokes to keep his opponent at the back and opened up a 3-0 lead. However, Christie restored parity with three points.

Sen's ability to come up with powerful and precise smashes held him in good stead, and he was up 6-3.

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At 6-4, the duo played a 63-shot rally, leaving Sen exhausted as Christie sealed it with a well-disguised shot.

Christie grabbed the lead with a body smash before moving to the break with a three-point advantage as the momentum shifted again.

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Soon the Indonesian started unleashing booming smashes. One such razor-sharp down-the-line smash took Christie to 13-9 and he kept the four-point advantage at 14-10 with another body smash.

Sen dumped a flick serve into the net as Christie led 15-10. A series of smashes took Christie to 17-12 and soon he had eight match points at his disposal.

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The Indian saved three match points before sprayed a shot into the net to dash all the hopes.

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Published March 16th, 2024 at 23:47 IST