PBL 2018-19: In-form Lakshya Sen gears up for Pune 7 Aces, looks at senior ace Ajay Jayaram for support

Pune: India’s Lakshya Sen has left many in awe of his on-court exploits, including senior ace shuttler Ajay Jayaram. The two men’s singles players trained together at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru and will team up once again for Pune 7 Aces at the upcoming Premier Badminton League (PBL).

On Sunday, the 17-year-old shuttler proved his mettle by clinching his first International Challenger title at the Tata Open in Mumbai. “The win at the Tata Open will definitely boost my confidence, because it was a senior tournament and I’ll carry that momentum with me to the PBL,” Lakshya told reporters a day after he defeated Thailand’s two-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn to lift the men’s singles title.

Players from the Pune 7 Aces badminton franchise attend a press conference on Monday.

Players from the Pune 7 Aces badminton franchise attend a press conference on Monday.

Having played with Ajay at the academy, Lakshya revealed that the Chennai-born shuttler has been a great source of help on the court for a long time. “We have played and trained in the same academy before. He always helps me with my gameplay and any kind of support,” he said.

The teenager, who will now focus on the senior circuit from next season, admitted that he had to go through physical struggles en route winning the gold medal at the Asian Championships and silver at the Youth Olympics. “It’s been a tough year for me, I had to face two injuries and then be patient to make a comeback. It was a great learning curve for me (and) a great junior performance this year. It’s really difficult to come through injuries,” Lakshya later told a select group of journalists.

“At the start of the year, I was out for two months with a shoulder injury and then in the mid-season in July-August, I had shin splints so I was out for four weeks. I couldn’t practice much or play in tournaments where I should have. At that time, I had to wait and I really don't like it when I'm not able to play. But, injuries are part of everyone’s career,” he added.

However, to fight back from injuries and win a major title makes the Tata Open title victory special for Lakshya. “Now that I’ll be moving up the ladder, I need to fix my strength and conditioning part so that I remain injury free and increase my power for the tough challenges at the senior level.”

Meanwhile, Ajay was quick enough to shower praise on a player he has seen evolve into a more developed player since the last seven years. “He’s definitely one of the biggest prospects India has in his age group. Even at the senior level, he’s shown some spark. I’ve trained and practiced with him and there are a lot of factors that come into play with time," Ajay said before adding: “It’s his grit and mental strength that he exhibits on the court that I noticed even as a youngster. He’s a real fighter and manages to hang in on the court till the end. That sets him apart,” he added.

Like last year, the 32-year-old looks at the PBL as a platform to turn things around for him. Interestingly, Ajay has always excelled for his previous sides — Mumbai Rockets and North Eastern Warriors — in the previous seasons.

With the likes of three-time world champion Carolina Marin, former men’s doubles World No 1 Mathias Boe, the lanky Vladimir Ivanov, experienced Brice Leverdez and India’s Chirag Shetty in their ranks, the Pune 7 Aces team looks strong on paper.

“I’ve been reasonably well in the past seasons. We have a great team with Carolina Marin at the forefront. At some level, we will be depending on her performance. But apart from her, we are a  well-balanced team. In the doubles, Chirag has done pretty well this year and with Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov, we have a lethal weapon," he said.

The fourth edition of PBL begins from 22 December as Pune 7 Aces take on Hyderabad Hunters at the NSCI Stadium in Mumbai.

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Updated Date: Dec 03, 2018 21:24:13 IST

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