Lakshya enters Thailand Open semifinals, Kiran loses

Bangkok: Star Indian shuttler Lakshya Sen stormed into the semifinals of Thailand Open Super 500 tournament with a straight game demolition of Malaysia’s Leong Jun Hao in men’s singles here on Friday.

The 21-year-old from Almora punched the air after unleashing a jump smash which sealed his 21-19 21-11 win over the qualifier from Malaysia in the quarterfinals.

The win helped him to enter the last four for the first time this season, having come close in Indonesia Masters, where he exited in the quarterfinals.

The Indian, whose ranking has slipped to world number 23 from a career-high of six following below-par performances this season, will take on either fifth seed Lu Guang Zu of China or Thailand’s second seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the semifinals.

Kiran George’s giant run, however, came to an end after he went down 16-21 17-21 against Toma Junior Popov of France in another men’s singles match.

It was an exciting contest as Lakshya and Leong kept pushing each other from the start. But after a 10-11 deficit at the interval, the Indian fell behind as the Malaysian managed to hold a 16-10 lead.

But Lakshya then changed gears, stepping up the pace in the rallies to restore parity at 17-17 before pocketing the opening game as Leong looked tired.

After the change of ends, he kept a tight grip on the rallies as his returns were sharper and precise. Soon he led 11-8, before breaking off at 13-11. He accumulated the next 11 points in a jiffy to emerge winner.