Shuttler Ajay Jayaram on the comeback trail
Ajay Jayaram was all set to qualify for the 2012 Olympics on the strength of his world ranking with Parupalli Kashyap close on his heels. But the Mumbaikar lost out and the Hyderabadi made it to London in fortuitous circumstances.
An early exit from the India Open Super Series in April 2012 saw Jayaram losing out while Kashyap went on to pull off a crucial win against Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana, taking the decider 22-20.
Kashyap was some thousand points adrift of London qualification and he qualified for the Olympics with third-seeded Chinese Chen Jin pulling out of the quarterfinal match, citing a wrist injury.
The unexpected walkover helped World No.30 Kashyap gain much-needed ranking points to take him past 27th-ranked Jayaram. That proved to be the turning point in the careers of the two young men.
From then on Kashyap went on to win the Commonwealth Games gold at Glasgow early this month while Jayaram's badminton life turned topsy-turvy as he had to miss the circuit for seven months following a shoulder surgery.
Jayaram, 26, who last played at the India Grand Prix Gold in January, will make a return to the circuit at the World Championships in Copenhagen Monday.
"I had a surgery on my right shoulder in February and it took time to recover after which I underwent rehab. For the last couple of months I have been training in my home town Mumbai," Jayaram told IANS from Mumbai before leaving for Copenhagen.
Jayaram said that though he missed out a lot on the professional front, he had a lot to gain in his personal life.
"I definitely missed out on a lot. I missed being on the circuit, missed winning and losing, missed out on tournaments -- some big ones like the Commonwealth Games. I also did not make the cut for the Asian Games," said the Mumbaikar, whose best ranking has been World No.21.
"But on the positive side I had a lot of free time after long. I spent that valuable time with my family at home in Mumbai as I am mostly in Bangalore training or travelling for tournaments. During this time, I underwent rehab, worked on my body and on court skills to get match fit. So the break was refreshing."
Jayaram, who has dropped to World No.89 due to his absence from the circuit, did not qualify for the World Championships when the draws were made -- he got lucky when some shuttlers withdrew.
"It is exciting to be back. I wasn't expecting to play the World Championships so it was a pleasant surprise. When some players pulled out I was lucky to get promoted into the draw of 64 from the reserve list," said Jayaram, who saw lady luck shine once again with his opponent for the opener Japanese fourth seed Kenichi Tago pulling out.
"My first aim is to get reaccustomed to the atmosphere, courts and get as much match practice as possible. I was supposed to play Kenichi, but he, too, pulled out so I am already in the second round. I am confident and hopefully I will be able to pull off a win or two," said Jayaram, who will now play the winner of the match between Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and Kieran Merrilees in the second round.
Jayaram doesn't want it easy in the upcoming tournaments. So instead of going for Tier-IV tournaments he has straight-away sent entries for Vietnam Open Grand Prix and Indonesian Masters Grand Prix Gold in September.
"I will play in GP events in Vietnam and Indonesia. I am expecting tough competition there which will help in getting the best out of me. From there I will proceed to Europe where I will be playing more tournaments in October," added Jayaram, who plays for Hyderabad Hotshots in the Indian Badminton League (IBL).
On compatriot Kashyap's recent CWG win, Jayaram said: "It was fantastic. He had a couple of really good wins during the tournament. In the final, Kashyap came out with a brilliant performance against Derek Wong, who seemed to have reserved his best game for the last."
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Posted on 24-08-2014)