Ajay Jayaram is feeling ‘great’ after his resounding performance in the recent Korean Open Super Series Event, where he pulled off a string of upsets to reach the final before finishing second best to world number one Chen Long. The 27-year-old Mumbai lad, who trains in Bangalore-based Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy under English coach Tom John, is optimistic about climbing up the ranking ladder. Ajay, who is now focusing on the upcoming European circuit, spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q How would you sum up your maiden Super Series final at the Korean Open?
It’s a great feeling to be in a Super Series final and playing against the world number one shuttler only accentuated its importance. I did not play badly in the final even though I lost in straight games. I think I made some unforced errors and could not quite maintain the sustained pressure that is needed to match a player of Chen Long’s calibre. He was relentless throughout, hopefully I will have better plans for him the next time I face him.
Q You essayed a string of upsets at the Korean Open – your straight games win over world No 7 Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei in the semifinal and your first round win over world no. 6 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark must have really special.
I really cherish these wins – Chen had beaten me twice this year and I had beaten him a few times earlier and obviously playing him number of times helped me this time around. I was better prepared and was glad to put it across him. I think both were highly satisfying wins. I believe I was a lot more patient and solid at the net in the semifinals against Chou Tien Chen. Beating higher ranked players is always a boost for any player and I’m no exception.
Q You are currently ranked 32 in the world. Surely, the fabulous run at the Korean Open will help up move up the ranking ladder.
I am hoping to break into the top-25. My career-best singles ranking is 21 and going forward I will back myself to beat more top players and improve my rankings.
Q The 2016 Rio Olympics will have two men’s singles entrants from India – how bullish are you sealing your berth with the kind of form you are in at the moment?
To be honest, I’m not thinking about the Olympics for now. I just want to continue pulling off wins against top players and everything will fall in place.
Q You had battled with prolonged injuries for most part of 2014 and this year as well.
I had a shoulder surgery last year and was out of competitive action for a long time. I only played a few months in 2014 and this year I had sustained an abdomen injury in May-June and missed a few tournaments. Injuries can set you back as rankings take a toll. Hoping to stay injury-free although injuries are not in one’s control.
Q How much of your success would you owe it to your coach Tom John?
I owe my success to him as he was the one who pushed me when I was down. He kept encouraging me and that worked wonders for me.
Q The Indian Badminton League (2016) is expected to be held in 2016. Your thoughts.
The IBL is a great concept and I have no doubts that Indian badminton will richly benefit from it.
Q India badminton have consistently seen six-seven shuttlers in the top-50 of the men’s singles – does it say something about the rising popularity of the sport?
Of course this is a great time for Indian badminton. Indian shuttlers have been coming up with great wins every now and then and it just shows how youngsters are taking to badminton in a big way.