Ajay Jayaram, the second-highest ranked Indian in badminton, at No.27, is a quiet and unassuming player. A stylish, strokeful player who has logged some impressive results over the last year, Jayaram is a thoughtful and articulate sort. A semifinal performance at the recent China Masters is a signpost of the progress he’s made. He answers this light quiz from Dev S Sukumar:
Your most memorable match this year:
It would have to be against Kenichi Tago in the first round of the China Masters. I played an almost error-free game and that win paved the way for me to reach the semifinals. I hit so many smashes in that match, I almost injured my abdomen!
The weirdest thing that has happened to you during a match:
This happened when I was probably 12 or 13. I was the top seed in a local tournament in Mumbai and winning my early round match quite comfortably. There was a reasonable crowd and I was enjoying the attention I was getting. It was the 15-point scoring (system) then. Since it was a relatively easy match I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the score. I thought I had reached match point, won the next rally and went to shake hands with the chair umpire and my opponent. As I reached my hand out to the umpire he told me that I was at 14 and still had one more point to go. I heard some laughter in the background. I was so embarrassed, I finished my match and ran out of the hall.
Lin Dan in one sentence:
Roger Federer – Tennis’s Lin Dan!!!
Your dream match would be:
My dream match would be playing the finals of the Olympics, World Championships or the All England. I don’t think I’d really care against who it would be.
The one place you’d love to visit:
Vegas! Because I enjoy the occasional thrill of the casino!
If you hadn’t been a badminton player, you would’ve been –
I’m pretty sure I’d be an engineer and/or an MBA graduate. Being from a middle class south Indian family, I’m not sure there are that many options :)
The friendliest player on the international circuit:
Derek Wong, Singapore.
Your favourite way of countering jet-lag:
I wish I knew the way to counter it effectively… I struggle quite a bit, especially when traveling to countries that are ahead of Indian time. But what I do is try and stick to the routine bed time and not sleep at odd hours.
The semifinal against Hu Yun at the China Masters:
I definitely think I could have won that semifinal against Hu Yun. It was very disappointing to lose at that stage when I knew I was so close to playing the final. All I wanted after the match was to have that chance again. Hopefully I’ll get it soon in the coming tournaments.
Working with (coach) Tom John:
Tom John has been like a saviour for me. A couple of years ago I was well behind in the rankings, and struggling to string in good results. Tom literally picked me up and put me back on track. Training with him isn’t easy as he always looks for perfection and shouts at you a lot. But then he manages to get the best out of you and that has brought me a lot of good results. I owe him a great deal for where I am today.
Your kind of music:
I listen to rock, pop, Bollywood. My favourite singer is Shankar Mahadevan, and my favourite rock band is Nirvana.