A maiden medal at the Asian Games and breaking into the world's top 5 remain on his radar but Lakshya Sen's first priority is to extend his rich vein of form at the World Championships. And, he is counting on his recent showing to deliver the goods.
After enduring a rough patch, Sen turned around his fortune with a title-winning run in Canada in July and followed it up with two semifinal finishes at the US Open and Japan Open.
The 21-year-old from Almora, who claimed a maiden bronze at the World Championships in 2021, will hope to secure another medal when he begins his campaign in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 21.
"World Championships being just a week ahead, I feel the past tournaments which I played will really help me go into the tournament," Sen told PTI on the sidelines of the inauguration of Badminton Association of India's National Centre of Excellence here.
"The preparation has been good. The past few tournaments, the form has been going well, but there are still a few more things to learn and improve.
"With time, it will get better and match preparation for this tournament is really good as I have played a lot of good matches in the recent past, and that will give me a lot of confidence.
"Another week or 10 days, I'm looking forward to really good training and then doing well at the World Championships." Asian Games, the continental multi-sport event, scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 8 in Hangzhou, China is another big-ticket event which is on his radar.
"It is a really big event and it comes once in four years, so it is a special one. I have played such big events twice in my career. I played in the Youth Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, so meeting all the players and watching different sports is a big learning experience for me," he said.
"So, I'm looking forward to doing well in the Asian Games but, as of now, the first priority is the World Championships and then we will focus on the Asian Games." Sen endured a tough phase after the World Championships in August last year and soon found his world ranking slip from six to 25. He is currently world No. 11 after a string of good shows in the last few weeks and hoping to break into the top 5 next year.
"I would want myself to be in world top 8 soon and then the aim would be to be in top 5 as the Olympic qualification ends. But, again, at the same time, there are a lot of tournaments. So, the priority is to win big tournaments and the ranking will take care of itself," he said.
A year ago, following the World Championships, Sen underwent nasal surgery to treat a deviated septum. What followed was an extended recovery process that took eight months.
His physical condition affected his performance and he made first-round exits in the last four events of 2022 and found the going tough in the early part of 2023.
"It has been a slow start for me this year but in the last few months I was feeling great on court and the training that I did in the last 4-5 months has really helped me a lot," he said.
"In the beginning, I tried a lot of new things. I also changed my trainer and with Anup (Sridhar) bhaiya coming in December, it took some time to adjust to the team." After his Korean coach Yong Sung Yoo left following the 2022 World Championships, Sen made a few changes, bringing Sridhar on board and also getting back Deckline Leitao, a sport and exercise-science specialist, who had trained him since he was 10 years old.
"With papa (DK Sen) and Vimal (Kumar) sir being around, it is really coming together where I am able to focus on on-court training and be injury-free. I was also dealing with some health issues. I was not able to push in training because of my illness.
"Because of my post-nasal surgery, I had a few issues but in the past 4-5 months I have recovered from that and I am looking forward to playing a lot more events." It is a tough battle to keep producing results for shuttlers in a hectic schedule that forces them to play week after week in pursuit of ranking points, especially with the Olympic qualification on the line.
"There are lots of tournaments but it is the same for all the players. This year being the Olympic (qualification) year, it is crucial for everyone to do well in the starting stage of the qualification," Sen said.
"In terms of tournaments, there are a lot of them and you just have to be prepared to play a lot of matches and look after the body, that is something I am prioritising right now.
"Having a good training week and following that up with a good tournament is what I am looking for."