Thailand Open: Lakshya Sen reaches first semifinal of 2023; Kiran George exits

Lakshya Sen reached his first semifinal of the 2023 BWF World Tour at the Thailand Open. Shi Tang/Getty Images

Lakshya Sen stormed into the semifinals of Thailand Open Super 500 tournament with a straight game demolition of Malaysia's Jun Hao Leong in men's singles here on Friday, while Kiran George's run came to an end in the quarterfinals.

Lakshya 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 the 21-year-old from Almora to enter the last four for the first time this season, having come close in the 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 Thailand's second seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the semifinals. 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.

Lakshya, who had been quite error-prone until 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, with Leong receiving a bit of medical treatment during the interval thereafter. The pair traded a few points before Lakshya broke off, leading 13-11. With Leong appearing quite despondent and Lakshya displaying the form of 2022, it was a stroll for the Indian as he accumulated the next eight points in a jiffy to emerge as the winner.

Kiran George's stellar run, meanwhile, came to an end after he went down 16-21 17-21 against Toma Junior Popov of France in the quarterfinal.

The 23-year-old Indian, who had defeated Popov in their only previous meeting, was in contention for much of the contest, before falling away towards the end of both games against the Frenchman.

It is the farthest Kiran has progressed in a BWF World Tour Super 500 event (having come through two rounds of qualifiers), although he did win the Odisha Open Super 100 in 2022.