Former junior world No 1 Lakshya Sen went down fighting in the men’s singles badminton final at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires on Friday, losing 15-21, 19-21 against China’s Shifeng Li.
Fourth seed Sen saved four match points in the second game to make it tight for the fifth seed from China but the latter held his nerve to complete a straight games win in 42 minutes.
This is India’s seventh medal at the ongoing Youth Olympics (excluding mixed NOC events) while Sen became the second Indian shuttler to win a silver medal at the event after HS Prannoy in 2010.
The match did not start well for the Indian youngster as he struggled to keep pace with Li’s power game, much like he did against Kodai Naraoka in the semi-final. The Chinese shuttler, ranked No 6 among juniors in the world, used his height advantage to great effect and kept Sen on the back foot to take 11-2 lead into the mid-game interval.
But Sen got his rhythm going in the second half of the game and wasn’t going to fold without a fight. Trailing 8-16, Sen put together a run of points to reduce the deficit to three points but Li restored his lead quickly and wrapped up the first game 21-15.
After a tight start to the second game, Li once again started pulling away, holding a five-point advantage a couple of times. But each time, Sen pulled a few points back to stay within touching distance. That was until Li raced ahead once again to have five match points.
But Sen had another gear left in him, as he pulled off some excellent defensive retrieves to save four match points. At one point Li was almost celebrating the gold medal before the shuttle was called out at the last moment. With the score at 19-20 though, Sen couldn’t make his serve count and Li collapsed on the ground to celebrate a well-deserved gold medal.
Sen, who ultimately paid for a poor start, showed flashes of his brilliance throughout the match, with his net play and retrieval standing out. In the end though, Li was just too powerful on the night for Sen’s touch game. A great run for the Indian youngster ended with a hard-earned silver medal.