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Working on attacking variations, hope to get into top-10 by April: Lakshya Sen on Olympic qualification

Lakshya Sen is aware that his Olympic qualification is still in choppy waters but said he has been working on his “variations” and “deceptions” during the off-season to regain his world’s top-10 position and seal his Paris Games berth.

The 22-year-old from Almora is currently ranked 17th in the Olympic Games qualification rankings and needs to stay inside the top 16 by April-end to make it to the Paris Games.

“To secure the spot I still have to work a little more harder in terms of getting good results, and once that is done, the qualification won’t be an issue,” Sen told PTI during an interview ahead of his departure to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

“For me, right now the main concern is to go deep into the tournament in the next few months until April and then ranking will follow. As of now, we are not in a comfortable stage in the qualification ranking.

“I would like to improve my ranking and come in the top-10 by the end of qualification.” Commonwealth Games champion Sen claimed the Canada Open Super 500 title in July, besides three semifinal finishes at the Thailand Open Super 500, US Open Super 300 and Japan Open Super 750 last season.

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However, Sen also made 11 first-round exits, including the last seven events, in the season which ended with a loss in the Senior National Championships in December.

Despite the rough waters and high tides, the former world No. 6 has not allowed it to dampen his spirits and has worked on the “variation of his attack” during the last few weeks to regain his form in the new season.

“I was not at my best, I was trying to fight every game but somehow I couldn’t find that momentum. I really can’t pinpoint one aspect. I mean, physical aspect would be one but there are few other on-court things,” Sen said.

“I played a lot of tournaments in 2023, I didn’t get time to prepare well or work hard on fitness. Last six weeks I have had time to train. So my fitness level has improved, last few weeks I have been focusing on on-court training, gradually increasing the intensity.

“I worked on some specific things like playing more sharper strokes from the backcourt, being confident enough to keep the shuttle in play.” The next three weeks will be crucial for Sen as he competes at the Malaysia Open Super 1000, India Open Super 750 and Indonesia Open Super 500.

Sen admits he had lost the sting in his attack and has not been able to sustain his aggressive game in three games as opponents started reading his game.

“Yes, I mean, when you play higher-ranked players, the opponents start reading your game and they don’t allow you to attack like before,” said the 2022 All England finalist, who will open his campaign at the Malaysia Open against China’s Weng Hongyang.

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“When you play those many matches and there are so many videos, people tend to read your favourite shots which I use when I am in good position. So people are ready for my game.

“So, I have been working and have to keep working on the variation aspect of my attack, have to keep them guessing, use a bit more deception. It is a matter of constant learning for me.

“I feel more confident now. With all that I have done in the last few weeks, I am hoping it will help me in the next 2-3 months, especially physical fitness the work that I have put in.” Sen will have his mentor Vimal Kumar to guide him in the Asia leg as he will be travelling with him for the next three tournaments. He will also have his elder brother Chirag Sen, who recently won the Senior National championships.

“Lakshya needs to be unpredictable”: DK Sen, Badminton coach DK Sen, who is also Lakshya’s father, feels his son needs to have an element of unpredictability in his game, and that will come with more variation.

“International badminton is extremely competitive, matches are very close and the difference between players is by inches.

“So, I feel he needs to mix it up by playing more slices, attacking tosses and slow drops. He needs to be unpredictable, there has to be a surprise element in his game.”

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