CWG: Lakshya Sen comes from behind to beat Tze Yong for gold
Kidambi Srikanth also claimed the bronze medal at the event.
Lakshya Sen showcased his trademark character and resilience, as he came from a game down to beat Ng Tze Yong of Malaysia 19-21, 21-8, 21-16 in the men's singles badminton finay at the Commonwealth Games 2022. In doing so, the 20-year-old claimed gold at his maiden appearance at the Games.
Tze Yong started confidently, showing his quick change of direction and drop shot prowess. Both players seemed fatigued after playing for 11 straight days. The Indian fought back to lead and while he was flawless defensively in returning smashes, he made a few unforced errors of his own despite having the point under control. The Malaysian won four straight points with his immaculate shot placement to streak ahead 9-7 and despite Lakshya breaking that run emphatically, a service error meant that the duo went into the mid-game break with an 11-9 lead to Tze Yong.
A close beginning
Nerves began to show in Lakshya’s performance as he kept stealing glances at his coach. An incredible winner after breaking his string mid-point during a long rally kept him in the hunt at 10-12. The confident Tze Yong banked on his net-play and deceptive smash-drop strategy to keep Lakshya guessing as the unforced errors kept building. The momentum soon shifted the Indian’s way as Tze Yong missed a couple of smashes to make it 15-16 and the Indian found his smashing fluency to tie 18-18.
Lakshya’s recovery skills have been talked of highly and he displayed this with an insane return off the net to go ahead 19-18 on the back of four straight points but Tze Yong leveled with his bread and butter, the smash down the line and managed a cross-court smash to go a game point up. A judgment error following a quality rally handed the opening game to Tze Yong 21-19.
A high-intensity second game began 3-3 and another incredible sequence of rallies was decided by two cracking smashes by Tze Yong. The Indian retorted with a smash of his own. Inconsistency in both players’ games showed in their inability to win a string of points but the Indian had enough energy left in his reserve tank to overturn this.
The errors began piling up for the Malaysian, who let Lakshya go into the break 11-9 up. Lakshya began receiving better and started dictating the rallies, growing in confidence to soar ahead 15-9 with a beautifully weighted smash. Lakshya won 13 of the last 14 points, preying on his opponent’s fatigue. He was soon a game point up at 20-9 and Tze Yong resigned the second game 21-9 in meek acquiescence after being 8-6 up.
Tze Yong and Lakshya began the decider in a nervy fashion. Lakshya moved around the court more briskly, handing him the ability to return anything the Malaysian threw at him, leading 8-4. Tze Yong successfully challenged a smash but kept making errors at regular intervals. The rally of the match went Tze Yong’s way after both players displayed their skill and spirit. The Indian led 11-7 before the change of ends and built his lead to 14-9. He exercised better judgment, but Tze Yong’s net play won him a mini-comeback.
Lakshya smashed past this stubborn mini resistance at 16-12 and earned some luck off the net to lead by five. Tze Yong simply did not have the energy to cope with Lakshya’s aggression towards the end, but a special point filled with defensive blocks gave him a sliver of hope at 14-18. Lakshya made no mistakes from there, a resounding smash and a racket hurl into the crowd meant that he took home gold after an hour and 20 minutes of sensational badminton.
Lakshya improves his record over Tze Yong to 3-0 head-to-head lead. Tze Yong beat Kidambi Srikanth in the semis. The World Number 10 Lakshya Sen defeated Singapore’s Jia Heng Teh 21-10 18-21 21-16 to make it to the finals. This is Lakshya’s second major singles medal on the global stage after bagging bronze at the World Championships last December.