Just 17, Alex Lanier is one of the most talked-about young players in the world. The French teenager has been marked as a potential world-class player for many months now.
As the youngest men’s singles player to win a senior European title (he won the Lithuania International last June when he was 16), and awarded the BEC Young Player of the Year by Badminton Europe in April, Lanier had his taste of major event competition at the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Aarhus last October and in Bangkok this month. In Bangkok, Lanier got his chance against China’s Li Shi Feng in the third singles, and against Algeria.
Lanier, currently world No.143, talks to BWF about his takeaways from Bangkok and his ambitions for this season:
What are your thoughts after playing Li Shi Feng?
Actually, I played a good match, which, sometimes I’ve seen that I have to play more good points. But I think for me, it was really good to play in this kind of speed. I have to play more with speed with these types of players. It was a good experience for me to play against China. And I’m sure that I will improve my game and learn a lot after this match.
What does it mean for you to play such a big event like the Thomas Cup?
It’s big for you and you take your own experience. Of course you play for your country. I think it was more interesting to play with these two feelings – to play for yourself and to play for others. And I think it was really great.
How inspiring was it for you to see France challenge China quite well in a couple of matches? Christo (Popov), for instance, nearly took the first match over Lu Guang Zu.
France, especially now, we’ve improved a lot. Now everybody needs to get more experience, more speed, more players like China. And for sure, I think in one year or two years, we’ll do well against all the nations.
Looking at the top players at this event, do you get the feeling you’re almost there as well?
For sure. When I saw the best players in the world I thought I can become the same. But I have to work. For example, today I lost because I was not able to work my points and build my points, so I have to improve to become the best one.
You played Viktor Axelsen at the European Championships in April. What was that like?
It’s really like the same as today. I felt that I have to build the points and just wait and not rush on to the net or rush in the backcourt, and I think it’s like the same to play against China. It’s really hard to win a point. So it was a great experience. I think against China, it showed me what I have to do to become a better player.
You received the BEC Young Player of the Year award…
It’s not really important to win the gold medal in Europe, especially when you’re young, because when I play against China, it’s really different, it’s lots of different shots, different speeds and it’s harder to play physically, mentally, and everything. When you’re young, you can play lazy I think and your opponent will make mistakes, so that’s less interesting.
Can you talk of your growing-up years? Apparently you had a badminton court just outside your house?
I have a badminton court near my house but I train in Paris, two hours up. I prefer to play in Paris because there are more players of a higher level, like Arnaud Merkle and Thomas Rouxel, but at home there is just my brother. So two years ago it was more interesting to move to Paris than to stay at home.
I started badminton because of my parents. When I was younger, I preferred to try badminton than any other sport. I think I liked it immediately so it was really good to play with my brother in the beginning and then improve and take pleasure on court and that’s why I love badminton today.
What goals have your set for yourself this season?
I just would like to go to the top 15 (in the rankings) and start to play against the best players in the world, to get the experience early, and to get the matches like today.
I think that everything is possible. I mean, if I work and if I build with that, I think I can play in this kind of level. I don’t really have the tournaments now. It’s more about getting results against the best players and playing and getting the experience.