Kidambi Srikanth's Tokyo Olympic aspirations suffered a major blow as he fell to compatriot Ajay Jayaram at the Spain Masters 2020 in Barcelona on Thursday while Saina Nehwal and Sameer Verma faced no problem in advancing to the quarter-finals.
Jayaram, the former World No. 13, is currently languishing at the 68th spot in the BWF World Rankings after injury-riddled last couple of seasons. He was the underdog coming into this clash having never beaten the former World No. 1 in four previous meetings.
His rivalry with Srikanth had been so lopsided that he could bag only one game in their four matches prior to this showdown. But he managed to turn the tables in a contest that witnessed brilliance from the Mumbai shuttler's racquet.
Jayaram did not give the Pullela Gopichand protege any chance to settle into the match as he ran away with the first game 21-6. The second game proved to be more competitive with the third seed summoning his aggression only to see Jayaram holding his nerve to pull off the 21-6, 21-17 upset win in 28 minutes.
In his quest for a semi-final berth at this Super 300 tournament, Jayaram faces World No. 62 Thomas Rouxel of France.
Fifth seed Saina Nehwal, who is hunting an Olympic berth for the fourth time, put up a clinical performance in her 21-10, 21-19 win against Maria Ulitina of Ukraine. The London Olympic bronze medallist takes on third seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan for a place in the semi-finals.
Joining Jayaram and Nehwal in the quarter-final stages was Sameer Verma. The World No. 30 was subjected to a stern test by German shuttler, Kai Schaefer before emerging victorious 21-14, 16-21, 21-15 in 1 hour 11 minutes. Verma will lock horns with Thai prodigy Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who has three World Junior Championships gold medals to his credit.