World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen stunned Olympic gold winner Viktor Axelsen in a hard-fought match to enter the final of German Open Super 300 tournament on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Sen, who had claimed his maiden Super 500 title at the India Open in January, continued his rich vein of form as he sent the world No. 1 and top-seed Axelsen packing with a 21-13, 12-21, 22-20 win in the semi-final that lasted one hour and 10 minutes.
It was a memorable performance from the world No. 12 Indian as he recorded his first win over his highly-fancied rival who had a 4-0 head-to-head record before Saturday’s match.
In the final on Sunday, Sen will face Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn who beat Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia in the other semi-final.
Sen was ahead throughout the first game that lasted 21 minutes. He did not give the Dane any chance to get ahead of him and Axelsen found it difficult to match Sen’s pace.
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Sen opened up with a 4-1 lead and then extended it to 9-4. But Axelsen narrowed it down to 7-9 before Sen grabbed four consecutive points to make it 13-7. Sen’s attacking game paid dividends as he took five consecutive points to lead 18-10 before clinching the first game with ease.
Axelsen made a comeback in the second game to make it one all and take the match to the decider. He was trailing 3-8 early on but used his height and reach to good effect to take five consecutive points and level the score at 8-8 before zooming ahead. From there on, Sen lost way and Axelsen pocketed the second game without any fuss.
The two players left their best for the last as they fought tooth and nail in the dramatic deciding game. It turned out to be a battle of nerves as rallies got longer with both fighting for each point. From 2-2, it was 4-4 and then 6-6 before Axelsen zoomed ahead 15-8.
But the young Indian fought his way back in a remarkable fashion to close the gap to 15-17 and then to 17-19. He levelled the score 19-19 and then 20-20 before sealing the match with two consecutive points.
In the quarterfinals, Sen had seen off fellow Indian and former top 10 player HS Prannoy 21-15 21-16.