“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” goes the popular phrase. Priyanshu Rajawat lived by it on a chilly Tuesday afternoon at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi.

In a match that lasted 75 minutes, he took down a more fancied Lakshya Sen 16-21, 21-16, 21-13 in the opening round of the India Open Super 750.

The contest was eerily similar to the contest between the two at the Japan Open in July, where Rajawat had squandered an 18-14 lead in the decider to lose 22-24 after bouncing back from a game down in the first match they played against each other.

In their second showdown, on Tuesday, the Madhya Pradesh shuttler ensured that no such hiccups happened this time around as he wrapped up the match quite comfortably after Sen threatened a fight back after being 1-9 down in the final game.

“This was a very important match to me,” Rajawat said during the post-match press conference. “I was very upset [when I lost in Japan] and after losing the first game, I said to myself that I am not going to give up no matter what [happened] in the second and third game.

“I wanted to win against Lakshya.”

Ranked 30 in the world, Rajawat admitted that he felt he had the match in the bag when he led 9-1 in the decider but was soon forced to control his aggression as Sen started to find his footing. That is when he started to slow down the tempo of the match to regain control.

Rajawat, 21, who was also a member of the historic Thomas Cup winning Indian side in 2022, shot to fame with his title win at the Orleans Masters in April 2023. He faced a brief dip in form due to a back injury.

He said that he had to miss out on a few tournaments to recover from the swelling in his back, forcing him to lose the momentum he had built. But in front of a packed crowd in New Delhi, and “back to full fitness,” Rajawat looked like he was getting back to his best as he beat the former top 10 player.

The loss for Sen put a dent in the former world No 6’s hopes of a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics. And his season has not gone off to a positive start, with two first round defeats in as many events.

Rajawat though is buoyant and hopeful of finding a spot in the contingent for Paris. And since he missed a number of tournaments in the first-half of last year due to the back injury, he has plenty of ranking points he can earn in the build up to the quadrennial event that starts in July.

“The focus will now be to play well and win in all the upcoming tournaments,” Rajawat said.

Rajawat also revealed that daily meditation has helped him find a calmer version of himself, which has helped in handling pressure situations like the one he faced on Tuesday better.

“I do not get angry very easily anymore when things do not go my way,” he added. “Even while I was side-lined with the injury, I kept calm.”

That new demeanour will serve him well on Thursday, when he plays the hard-hitting HS Prannoy for a spot in the quarter-final.

Coach Pullela Gopichand, who has worked with Rajawat, stressed on the importance of consistency for the talented youngster.

“He always had the speed, today you might have also seen him have the quality of strokes, which are mighty impressive,” said Gopichand.

“But, there’s a lot more to it than just the weapons. He’s had some good wins. He needs to be consistent. But with a game like that, it is not very easy to be consistent. But if he gets consistent, he could be there for a long time.

“He's just been up and down quite a bit, but that's expected with a game like that. And the quicker he stabilizes, I think it'll be very good for him,” the coach added.

Prannoy wins; Treesa-Gayatri lose

Earlier in the day, Prannoy started off the Indian campaign with a 21-16, 21-9 against Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei.

The Indian world No 8 trailed 11-16 in the second game, but fought back to win six points in a row to lead 17-16 before wrapping up the match in just 42 minutes. The result was in contrast to the usual Prannoy-Chou matches, which usually end up in deciders.

“The planning was pretty spot on in the first game,” said Prannoy.

“I got to understand that he was not able to get the length properly in the first game, so I had to wrap it up really quickly before he got into that rally mode.

“In the second game, as expected, he started to push the speed and was able to finish a lot of shuttles from behind. I didn't hit really hard towards the end of the game and was trying to play softer shots,” he added.

Later, the women’s doubles pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand went down fighting 21-18, 14-21, 13-21 after being a game up against Japan’s Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida.

The Indian pair was level on terms at 13-13 in the decider before the world No 4 raced away to a win within the blink of an eye.

In the other women’s doubles match, the Panda sisters, Rutaparna and Swetaparna, lost 6-21, 7-21 to Hong Kong’s Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam.

Men’s singles shuttler Kiran George went down 12-21, 15-21 to Wang Tzu Wei, while the men’s doubles pair of Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun also crashed out following a 9-21, 13-21 loss to Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei.