This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Injuries are part and parcel of a sportsman’s life. It’s how you tide over the injury phase and emerge stronger, which separates the champions from the rest. Indian men shuttler Ajay Jayaram is a tough cookie – he exuded nerves of steel after enduring a seven-month injury lay-off to win his maiden Grand Prix crown – bagging the coveted Dutch Open recently.
The 27-year-old Mumbai lad – ranked 66 in the world – pocketed his fourth international title after earlier having won the 2009 New Zealand Open, 2010 Thailand Open and 2013 Czeck Open. Jayaram spoke about his Dutch Open glory in an exclusive interview.
It was a brilliant week. This happens to be my maiden Grand Prix triumph. And considering it came at a time when I was staging a comeback, I couldn't have asked for more. I played a high level of badminton and more importantly, was able to maintain the same level throughout the tournament.
Q You got the better of top-seed Rajiv Ouseph of England in the semifinal and third seed Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka of Indonesia in the quarterfinals. Must be highly satisfying beating such higher ranked players en route to glory?
Yes, they were very good wins. I have beaten Rumbaka in the past. But considering I just started playing a month back after the injury I’m pretty pleased with the way I pulled through these matches. I played some positive attacking badminton and that helped me against both Rajiv and Rumbaka.
Q You will be extra delighted with the fact that you have become the first Indian to win a Grand Prix crown with the new 11-point rule.
It’s nice to know that I was able to adapt to the new scoring pattern. It’s a little different as most points are played under more pressure considering the sets are much shorter.
Q This was your fourth international singles title. You had earlier won the 2009 New Zealand Open, 2010 Thailand Open and 2013 Czeck Open. Which one will you rate as your best win so far?
Definitely, this Dutch Open triumph is my best title win so far. This happens to be the biggest and also came at a time when I’m on a comeback trail.
Q The year 2014 hasn’t been an easy one considering the shoulder injury you had at the start of the year. Does that make this Dutch Open triumph special?
Absolutely! It wasn’t an easy period considering I had to be out of competitive action for so long. Once I returned to the international circuit I found it difficult to adapt to match situations as I was little rusted and sluggish due to the injury lay-off. It took a couple of months for me to adjust but yes, when hard work and patience pays off it does make it extremely special.
Q You played in the Indira Gandhi Grand Prix Gold event in January this year and then featured in your next event at the World Championship in August. How difficult was it to stay motivated during the phase when you could not play owing to your injury?
Yes. It wasn't easy. Seven months is a long time. I spent the first few months at home in Mumbai with my parents. It helped me take my mind off things and in a way it was nice to spend time with my family since I don't normally get to do that. Once I started training, it was tough and doubts would creep in, but it wasn't hard staying motivated as I knew very well what I wanted and how to go about it.
Q You are now ranked 66 in the world and you had broken into the top-20 in early 2014 and slipped being out of injury-induced lay-off. You are 27 – how do you assess your international career so far?
I have had some good results in the past. But I’d like to think that my best years are still ahead and I’m eager to go realize my full potential.
Q Game-wise what areas you need to work on?
I think I need to get a little more patient and work on my consistency.
Q Where do you think Indian badminton stands on the world stage?
Barring a select few nations, I think India are right up there and it’s only a matter of time before our shuttlers start winning bigger titles consistently.
Q The inaugural Indian Badminton League held last year – do you think it served the purpose for which it was created in the sense are corporate money really pouring in for badminton in India?
It definitely did. It brought in a lot of corporate money. It also brought in the publicity and awareness about the game, which was lacking all this while. It was a huge success considering it was just the inaugural edition. I hope it stays on. It could do wonders for the sport in the country.
The writer can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org