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After a disappointing 2012, Ajay Jayaram hopes for a turnaround in the New Year
City shuttler Ajay Jayaram's busied himself reading Brad Gilbert's 'Winning Ugly' in his downtime this year when he wasn't negotiating steep smashes and net dribbles on badminton courts.The tennis tome's a guide for players to maximise their potential, outwit bigger players and grind their way to victory. After a luckless 2012, Ajay will need plenty of tricks from that book as he plots his moves for the upcoming season to stave off stagnation that grips India's men singles players after they make the Top 25 grade.
The year that went by is a tormenting memory of missed opportunities, and a longish list of what-not-to-do's. But the Chembur boy who trains in Bangalore is keen to leave those disappointments behind and hang on to the positives. For starters he was one of the first Indian men to score a win over a mid-rung Chinese - Wang Zhengming at Hong Kong, and though the world junior champion from China of 2008 is still to take the big stride into the Top 10 echelons, Ajay had managed to hit a purple patch late into the season. But the spurts of good days had been far spaced out during the year to amount to a massive surge and Ajay ended up missing out on the Olympics, pipped by P Kashyap.
"This year has had a lot of ups and downs. Some bitter disappointments along the way. But some nice victories as well. Although I've played some good matches, I'm not entirely satisfied with the consistency with which I've played," he explains.
There were the stray peaks and a couple of matches where he would morph into a grander player for a set before fizzling out against the World No 1 Lee Chong Wei. "The high points would be the semifinals at the China Masters, my wins over Kenichi Tago, Wang Zheng Ming, twice extending the world no. 1, Lee Chong Wei to 3 sets, and a year ending super series rank of 11," he recalls. But despite that impressive showing in the Super Series, he had missed out on the season-ending SS finals to add to the heartbreak of being edged away out of Olympic qualification. "It was tough, very tough. But I would say I handled it quite well. I gave no room for sympathy and just kept working as hard as I could and strung some good results to get over it," he recalls. A dodgy ankle had unsettled him for the first few months at the start of 2012 but he had hit his strides heading into teh Olympic qualification months before Kashyap nudged ahead. "I twisted my ankle in the first week of the year and that kind of ruined the first few months of the year. But since then thankfully I haven't had too many problems," he says. Despite the ups and downs Ajay had managed to incorporate some variations in his attack but that hasn't translated into absolute success. The closest losses came against Hu Yun in China Masters, a match that still rankles, for a win there could have fetched him his first SS final appearance. The headline wins, he admits, could not compensate for the reverses. "The important wins were against Kenichi Tago and Wang Zheng Ming. But if it's the losses which I believe could have really made the difference I'd say against Hu Yun in the China Masters semifinals and against Lee Chong Wei at the Hong Kong Open." Yet the new season brings good tidings of the ambitious Indian Badminton League. "I believe badminton is one of the most exciting sports. If marketed well it can definitely become huge in India. With Indian badminton doing well in recent years, its the right time for something like this to happen. It will be a big boon for indian players and for the sport in the country," he says. Mumbai would definitely be his first choice of franchise.
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