After helping India to a historic first Thomas Cup title and then winning Commonwealth Games gold last year, Lakshya Sen mysteriously underwent a form slump.
The Indian was unable to cross the first round at three of the year’s last four events. The slump continued into 2023 as well, with several early exits, all the way into May.
But then came a turnaround, as Sen beat opponents like Wang Tzu Wei and Li Shi Feng on his way to the semifinals of the Thailand Open. Two weeks later, at the Indonesia Open, he took down Lee Zii Jia before falling to Kidambi Srikanth in a well-contested match.
What explained the form slump?
It’s just like Sen to underplay what he’s been going through.
The soft-spoken Indian, currently world No.18, revealed that he’d had nose surgery for a deviated septum after the World Championships last August, which led to frequent illness and allergies. Recovery was expected to take three months; instead, it has taken him over eight months to get back on track.
Surgery was needed because the deviated septum had nearly blocked his right nasal passage, with the air intake around 20 per cent of normal. The surgery involved shaving off a portion of the bone that was impeding air intake and setting right the shape of the nose.
“I had surgery for a deviated septum; it led to a lot of allergies and stomach upsets. Basically, the immunity was down for quite some time. And then it took a long time with the medication, maybe another three months, to get back,” said Sen.
“Recovery was not really good. Whenever I was into training, I was getting injured or sick. Then I had to take a step back for a bit, because for the first two months, I didn’t have any idea that it could be this serious. I made a lot of changes in my food, and also in the training load. Now I’m really looking forward to playing all these tournaments with good fitness level.”
Although the surgery did compromise his immunity, Sen says it was necessary to prevent future problems, besides allowing for more air intake through his nose.
“I think surgery was needed, because it could have led to a serious issue in the coming years and I wanted to go into the Olympic qualification with a free mind,” says Sen. “I had planned it, but I wasn’t ready for the after-effects.
“The after-effects were not because of medication, but because my nose became very sensitive. With (reduced) immunity, any change of water or weather, I was falling sick or having a stomach upset.”
Given that his air intake has greatly improved now, how does he feel on court?
“I’d adjusted to breathing from my mouth from a very young age. Sometimes it was hard to breathe when I had a nose block … breathing from the nose is much better. We’ll have to still wait and see. Over the last two-three months I’ve felt better. I made a few changes in the training as well, building up the base strength … I’m getting back.”
Sen will next be seen in action at the YONEX Canada Open, where he takes on second seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn in a high-profile opening round.