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Yearender 2021: Lakshya Sen shines; Srikanth makes a comeback; Sindhu's record-breaking show

Bengaluru, Dec. 26: Despite the pandemic continuing to disrupt the calendar, Indian badminton saw some record-breaking performances. With the likes of PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen taking the sport to great heights for the country, there were moments of disappointment as well in a topsy turvy year for the sport.

Looking back at the year, three players shone bright for the sport, on an otherwise disappointing year. PV Sindhu continued to take the sport to record-breaking heights with another historic outing. The Indian shuttler clinched her second Olympic medal to breach unprecedented heights. Meanwhile Kidambi Srikanth's resurgence was another moment of glory for Indian badminton.

But while the seniors led the way, the one who captured everyone's attention was the young Lakshya Sen, who enjoyed a breakthrough year and paved the way for the youth to takeover from their seniors.

With competitions coming thick and fast, exhaustion and injuries played a big role as several players withdrew from major events due to injuries. The 2021 edition of the Thomas, Uber and Sudirman Cup was a big failure for India with players like Sindhu opting out and the BAI bungling up the selection process. With Indian shuttlers failing to lift any singles title, the season belonged to 20-year-old Lakshya Sen, who lent a beacon of hope for Indian badminton.

Having churned out record-breaking performances for the sport in the country for years now, Rio Olympic silver-medallist Sindhu once again led from the front, winning her second Olympic medal. Sindhu added to her trophy-laden cabinet with a bronze in the Tokyo Olympics and silver at the season-ending World Tour finals. But Sindhu failed to go the distance at the Dutch Open as India was left without a trophy in the singles category this season.

Though Sindhu failed to cross the final hurdle, the Indian shuttler churned out consistent performances, as she returned from a break following the Olympics, to register semifinal finishes in the French Open, Indonesia Masters and Indonesia Open. But the 26-year-old wasn'd done still as she went on to win silver in the World Tour Finals. But the season ended on a disappointing note as the Hyderabadi shuttler could not go the distance in the World Championship. For the first time since 2017, India's leading shuttler returned empty-handed from the BWF World Championships, registering a quarterfinal finish in Huelva.

Though Sindhu returned emty-handed from the World Championships, India registered a historic outing in the prestigious competition. Senior shuttler Srikanth and his younger compatriot Sen made the campaign a memorable one. Srikanth and Sen both returned with medals from one edition of the World Championships, a feat which had been achieved by Sindhu and Saina Nehwal in the women's singles in the 2017 edition of the event in Glasgow.

Srikanth had been struggling to regain his form following a successful season in 2017. The senior shuttler hit his lowest point when he failed to secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics. But the 28-year-old fought back to turn his season around and get his groove back. Though the shuttler from Guntur failed to lift a trophy, Srikanth two semifinal finishes this season - Hylo Open and Indonesia Masters. The 28-year-old then churned out an explosive show at the World Championships to clinch silver. Srikanth became the first man to win silver at the World Championships.

Srikanth defeated his younger compatriot Sen in the semifinals, with Sen bringing home the bronze medal. Sen, who has been a growing force in Indian badminton, with five titles to his name in 2019, before the pandemic halted his progress, was a breath of fresh air as he once again churned out explosive performances. With a final finish at the Dutch Open, Lakshya registered a semifinal finish at Hylo and impressed on his debut at the World Tour Finals, reaching the knockout stages.

But the youngster wasn't done still. Playing in his first BWF World Championship, Sen was a force to reckon with as he marched on to the semifinals. In the semis, Sen gave Srikanth a run for his money, winning the first game convincingly and making his senior player sweat it out till the last point. In his maiden appearance, Sen returned home with bronze, joining Prakash Padukone, Sai Praneeth and Srikanth as the only male shuttlers to win a medal at the World Championships.

Meanwhile, it was a year to forget for senior shuttler Saina Nehwal. The injury-hit former World No. 1 failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and for the very first time missed out on the World Championships.

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Story first published: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 19:24 [IST]
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