Indonesia vs India, opening match of the 2022 Thomas Cup final: Anthony Ginting has been toying with Lakshya Sen. As a return looped high in the second game, Ginting jumped high, and smashed hard. He had been doing this from minute one, and it helped him take the opening game 21-8.
Now, a Ginting jump smash is a thing of beauty. The set-up, the drop almost kissing the net; the fluid step back; the jump, so high it happens almost in slow-motion; the finish un-returnable. Lakshya returned this one.
Seemingly stranded in the frontcourt, Lakshya had raced into the far corner and then twisted his body to somehow contrive a return. One that was placed superbly into his opponent’s far court.
Flustered, Ginting made an uncharacteristic error on return, and the point was Lakshya’s, a point that took his lead in the second game to 9-5.
You could almost hear Ginting think ‘how?!’ There are moments in matches, however big the stage, when you know something has happened. This was one of those. Lakshya knew he had got his defence back on track. Almost as importantly, Ginting knew this too, as did the loud, largely Indonesia-supporting crowd in Bangkok.
Lakshya powered through the rest of the game, winning it 21-17, holding off a brief fightback but never really losing control of the situation. Then, the third game.
Powered by the drift, the crowd, and his country’s pedigree in the competition, Ginting motored into an 11-7 lead again. As the two players switched ends, it would have been understandable if Lakshya figured ‘this was it’.
The thing with Lakshya, though, is that thought never really seems to enter his mind. To come back from that opening game loss took heart, but what he did in the third game, under all the pressure, turning an 11-7 lead for Ginting into a 12-13 lead for himself with a combination of remarkable defence and on-point aggression. His returns forced errors from an increasingly nervous Ginting, and anything too deep or too shallow was punished by Lakshya.
When Ginting brought Lakshya to the net, the young man remained unflustered, showing off an underrated touch that left Ginting scrambling hither and thither.
By the end, there wasn’t any doubt — in a match where Lakshya had looked down and out — a jumping reverse backhand smash at the net to make it 18-14 emphasizing just how dominant he had become. He took the game 21-16, the match 2-1, handing India a 1-0 lead in the Thomas Cup final against 14-time-champions Indonesia.
It’s the mark of a champion, isn’t it? Standing up to pressure and an opponent in full flow, believing in himself, fighting… delivering. And that’s exactly what Lakshya Sen did: deliver on one of the biggest stages of them all.