NEW DELHI, Sept 22: More than a year after recovering from a shoulder injury, Ajay Jayaram earned a final appearance at the Korea Open last week and the Indian shuttler said it was a big moment for him after enduring a challenging seven-month layoff.
Coming into the tournament as an underdog, Jayaram went on to reach the finals and even though he eventually lost to World No.1 Chen Long, the Bengaluru-based shuttler is glad he could realise his dream of making it to the finals of a Super Series event.
�Since my childhood, I have seen so many people whom I look upto like Peter Gade, Lin Dan or Taufik Hidayat getting up there, so it was a dream to take the court in a Super Series finals. It was a big moment for me to reach the finals,� Jayaram told PTI.
For six months, Jayaram was left on the sidelines, nursing a shoulder injury sustained in January last year. What followed was multiple visits to the doctor, going under the knife and then the rehabilitation process.
Asked about that phase, Jayaram said: �It was not easy going through the injury phase. I mean, first I thought I will be back after four months but the rehab was the most challenging. Because there are so many ups and downs, there are days when you don�t feel good, there is some pain and then you doubt your fitness.
�But to come back after seven months and win my first GPG title at the Dutch Open was a huge thing for me. Post that, I reached the semifinal at Malaysia and also the final at the Swiss Open. So it was a decent performance and much needed boost for me. And reaching the Super Series finals is my best performance. Now the challenge is to sustain that in the coming months as I play more super series.
�I think the injury phase made me more hungry to get back on the court and do well. It was a challenging phase but I am glad I could spend time with my parents and I�m happy that I also stuck on and got better,� added the Mumbai-born shuttler, who won the biggest title of his career, the Dutch Open, at only his fourth tournament after injury.
Talking about the Korea Open, Jayaram said: �I had lost to Viktor Axelsen in the Japan Open and that was disheartening, but then once I beat him in the first round, it really gave me the confidence. It sort of pumped me up. Also I had lost to Tien Chen twice, so that win also was a confidence booster.
�He (Chen) is a difficult player. He is so confident about his fitness and is very patient. He gets back all the shuttles and also he is solid at the nets. I was returning his smashes but mistakes cropped up in my game later in the match. So there are a few areas which I need to improve but there are a lot of positives to take from the match,� said Jayaram.
Currently ranked 32nd, Jayaram is expected to make a big jump in world rankings when the fresh list is released on Thursday but the Indian said he is not concerned about that and wants to focus on consistency.
�I am not concerned about ranking right now. I know I will be within the top 25 next week. But I want to concentrate on getting some good wins, reaching the quarters and the semifinals regularly and that will take care of the ranking,� he said.
Jayaram had come within touching distance of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics, only to lose the berth at the last moment to P Kashyap, who toppled him in the rankings following a walkover in the India Open.
�It was disheartening to lose out in Olympics race,� Jayaram said.
Asked if this performance has spurred him to go for next year�s Rio Games, Jayaram said the Olympics is not in his mind right now.
Jayaram attributed his success to his parents and India-born British coach Tom John.
�I am everything for my parents. Ever since a kid, they inspired me. My parents are South Indian and are academically inclined but they have always supported me and allowed me to pursue badminton,� he said.
Jayaram said the stiff competition in the domestic circuit is pushing the shuttlers to work harder and it is reflected in the results. � PTI