It sure was an Indian treat in Huelva, Spain. Former world number one Kidambi Srikanth was forced to dig deep by young Lakshya Sen in their men's singles semi-final match at BWF World Championships 2021 on Saturday. Srikanth, 28, fought back from a game down to beat unseeded Sen 17-21, 21-14, 21-17 in one hour and nine minutes and book his maiden final ticket. Srikanth, seeded 12, will face Kean Yew Loh of Singapore in the final on Sunday. Kidambi Srikanth is the first Indian male singles player to enter the final round of a world championships. Catch highlights of Lakshya Sen vs Kidambi Srikanth badminton match here:
Srikanth, with the win, became the first Indian male shuttler to qualify for the final at the prestigious event. Sen settles for a bronze medal, an honour he now shares with legendary Prakash Padukone (1983) and B Sai Praneeth (2019). Sen, 20, was on course to become the youngest ever finalist, but he failed to keep the momentum against an error-prone but fascinating Srikanth.
PV Sindhu, who lost Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan in the women's singles quarterfinal earlier in the tournament, remains the lone Indian singles world champion. Sindhu won the title in the last edition (2019) in Basel, Switzerland then gets to keep it for an unprecedented two years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
11:47 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 17 - 21 Srikanth
Lakshya Sen keeps the fight alive with a point, then sends a cross-court flight long. Match point, three of them, for Kidambi Srikanth. Sen sends the return into the net. And Srikanth enters the final. 21-17 in the decider.
11:35 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 16 - 19 Srikanth
An Indian treat in Spain. A delicate drop from Kidambi Srikanth, then a smash to make it 18-16. Then another, for 19-16. Two points away.
11:43 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 16 - 16 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth is struggling to keep up. But he just won a long rally with a drop shot. Then another. Lakshya Sen then wins a net play to make it 16-16.
11:41 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 15 - 14 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth gets a gift from Lakshya Sen, who hurries into the smash and into the net. 13-13. Sen regains the lead with another long push from Srikanth, and the senior pro drops into the knees. Sen follows it with a cross-court smash. Twisting and turning. Brilliant rally. 15-13. But Srikanth is alive. A fabulous smash. And it's an hour.
11:38 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 13 - 11 Srikanth
Laskhya Sen beats Kidambi Srikanth to the near side of the court with a delicate drop. A three-point lead at 13-10 even as Srikanth continues his ritual of touching the two sidelines and the racquet. Then, a mighty smash to win back the serve.
11:36 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 12 - 10 Srikanth
A barrage of smashes from relentless Kidambi Srikanth, and he finally wins the point. 9-11 as diving Lakshya Sen's return crashes into the net. And what a rally. It needed a terrific angled drop from Srikanth to end it. Then again, Kidambi sends another one wide. His challenge also goes astray. Wasted.
11:32 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 11 - 8 Srikanth
Lakshya Sen is forcing Kidambi Srikanth to commit the mistakes. Another wide smash from the senior pro. Then, Sen produces his own smash, just catching the right sideline. And the change of side. 11-8.
11:29 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 8 - 7 Srikanth
This is too close to call. A thriller in the making. A brilliant rally with Lakshya Sen picking up a series of deep shots. 43 shots, and the last one from Kidambi Srikanth landing just wide. Tired.
11:26 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 6 - 6 Srikanth
Careless return from Srikanth Kidambi and Lakshya Sen level on points. The youngster then takes the lead but last only a rally. Another huge smash from Srikanth. 5-5. Srikanth then sends his smash wide. Then, an error at the net from Sen.
11:25 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 2- 4 Srikanth
Lakshya Sen shows the range with a drop shot. A diving Srikanth Kidambi fails to reach the shuttle. Then, one of those smashes. Kidambi takes a two-point lead.
11:23 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 1 - 3 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth is dictating the rallies now. Lakshya Sen does everything to keep the last rally alive, a rather patient play. But Srikanth kills it off with a cross-court smash.
11:21 PM IST: Game 3 - Sen 1 - 1 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth starts the proceedings. A delightful reverse slice, and the shuttle falling in slow motion. Treat. But Lakshya Sen wins the next point, at the net.
11:19 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 14 - 21 Srikanth
Sensational play from Kidambi Srikanth. 4-8 down then 21-14 to keep the semis alive. A cross-court smash after keeping Lakshya Sen tight on the left court. Opening the court like a specialist.
11:16 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 14 - 18 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth is changing the tactics, to the attacking play, for good. And Lakshya Sen fails to time his leap and into the net.
11:13 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 12 - 14 Srikanth
Lakshya Sen wins two points, both thanks to long pushes from Kidambi Srikanth. Sen lofts one very high and long. He challenges the call. And it's very long. Wasted challenge. 14-12 for Srikanth.
11:11 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 10 - 13 Srikanth
Another breather and Lakshya Sen misreads a flick. Six straight points for Kidambi Srikanth. Service over, finally. But Srikanth is having a spell. A calm smash to end the rally.
11:08 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 9 - 11 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth wins a couple of points to make it 9-9. Lakshya Sen then crashes into the net. And lead for Srikanth, six off the last seven points. Another one, for a two-point lead.
11:06 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 8 - 7 Srikanth
Players take a breather. Before that Kidambi Srikanth unleashes a smash, almost hitting Lakshya Sen in the face.
11:04 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 8 - 5 Srikanth
A moment of magic from Kidambi Srikanth to keep the rally alive, then Lakshya Sen shows his own with a late pickup. Sen lets a long flight alone and it's 6-4. And another unforced error from Srikanth, sending the cross-court smash wide. Then, Srikanth fails to read a net play.
11:00 PM IST: Game 2 - Sen 2 - 2 Srikanth
Nice little play to start the second game and Kidambi Srikanth wins the first point. But Lakshya Sen wins the next two. Srikanth sends in a cross-court smash to make it 2-2.
10:57 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 21 - 17 Srikanth
A series of unforced errors, long and wide, and three game points for Lakshya Sen. And a brilliant drop to seal it. 21-17 in minutes.
10:54 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 17 - 17 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth wins three points on the trot to level the score, with the final rally earning applause from the sizeable crowd. 16-16. And Srikanth reclaim the lead with a forced error. Brilliant foot movement. Then he hurries into the net. It's 17-17.
10:51 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 15 - 13 Srikanth
Lakshya Send sends a smash wide, then Kidambi Srikanth sends his own return wide as unforced errors creep in. Sen plays a nice net play to increase the lead to 15-11. But Srikanth leaps high and sends in a smash. Then another easy point for the former world number 1.
10:49 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 12 - 10 Srikanth
A killer cross-court smash, then another deceptive drop from Kidambi Srikanth to reduce the lead. And he sends a return wide.
10:47 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 11 - 8 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth sends a flight long to concede the lead again. And it becomes 11-8 for Lakshya Sen. The youngster is changing his racquet.
10:45 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 8 - 7 Srikanth
Very good judgment from Kidambi Srikanth to let the shuttle drop just outside the baseline. But a brilliant smash down the right from Lakshya Sen to make it 7-7. Sen then takes the lead for the first time, courtesy of an unforced error from Srikanth.
10:42 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 5 - 6 Srikanth
Two points on the trot for Lakshya Sen, including a neat drop. But Kidambi Srikanth wins to reclaim the lead with back-to-back points. And a crash into the net for 5-6.
10:39 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 2 - 4 Srikanth
Lakshya Sen fights back and wins two points but fails to beat Kidambi Srikanth in a tight net game. Srikanth then unleashes a mighty smash for a 4-2 lead.
10:36 PM IST: Game 1 - Sen 0 - 2 Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth starts the proceedings. And a good start for the experienced shuttler.
10:31 PM IST: Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth are in the court.
10:27 PM IST: And second consecutive World Championships final for the Japanese pair, Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi. Five final in the last six tournaments. They beat Malaysia's Ong Yew Sin/Toe Ee Yi 21-13, 21-9 in 32 minutes.
In a few minutes, we will have Lakshya Sen vs Kidambi Srikanth.
10:12 PM IST: In the first semi-final of the men's doubles event, Japan's Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi won the first game 21-13 against Malaysia's Ong Yew Sin/Toe Ee Yi.
9:56 PM IST: Earlier in the day, top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan defeated He Bing Jiao (8) of China in three games (21-17, 13-21, 21-14) to enter the women's singles final. He will face Japan's second seed Akana Yamaguchi, who defeated unseeded Chinese Zhang Yi Man in the second semi-final.
9:44 PM IST: Second seeds Lee Sohee/Shin Seung-chan enter the final with a straight games win over the third seeds (21-18, 21-17). Lee/Shin will take on top seeds Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan of China in the final.
Up next, men's doubles second semis. Then, Lakshya Sen vs Kidambi Srikanth.
9:26 PM IST: Here are the key stats before the match -
World number 19 Lakhya Sen is unseeded here, while world number 14 Kidambi Srikanth is seeded 12. This will be Sen's 28th match this year, and he has a 17-11 win-loss record. Overall, Sen has a career win-loss record of 168-58. Srikanth has so far played 397 professional matches, winning 256. In 2021, he has played 34, winning 18.
9:00 PM IST: The evening session has already started with the women's doubles semi-final between the two Korean pairs, Kim Soyeong/Kong Heeyong and Lee Sohee/Shin Seung-chan. It will be followed by a men's doubles semis between Japan's Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi and Malaysia's Ong Yew Sin/Toe Ee Yi.
India has so far won 10 medals in BWF World Championships - one gold, three silver and six bronze. Seven of those have come in women's events -- one gold, three silver and three bronze. And with Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth in the semis, the count will increase to 12. By making the semis, both Srikanth and Sen have assured themselves of at least a bronze.
This is the first time that two Indian male shuttlers are fighting for a spot in the men's singles final of the BWF World Championships. Only two Indian men's singles players have won BWF World Championships medals before, both bronze by Prakash Padukone in 1983 and B Sai Praneeth in 219.
Lakshya Sen, 20, survived a three-game thriller to beat China's Jun Peng Zhao 21-15 15-21 22-20 and joined compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in the last four.
Unseeded Sen is competing in his first BWF World Championship. And he will face a stiff challenge against the former world number one Srikanth, who defeated Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands in the quarters.