Hyderabad Hotshots player, Ajay Jayaram, delivered a stunning first blow when he knocked out world No.5 Tien Minh Nguyen 21-17, 21-11 to put the local team in front in the first semi-final of the Indian Badminton League.
Jayaram opened with a burst of power, smashing his way to a 3-1 lead in the first game. Tien Minh responded by changing the pace of the game to win five points on the trot and move in front 6-3.
A couple of close calls went to Jayaram as he drew even with the Taipei player at 13-13. When Tien Minh was forced to lift one at the net, the Indian used the flight to strike a jump smash and remain tied at 15-15.
The world No. 5 pushed a couple of punches long to let Jayaram jump to a four point lead at 19-15. Tien Minh misread the flight on a drive from his opponent and the birdie dropped on the line to give game point to the Hotshots.
Ajay took the game when the Taipei star floated a forehand too long and the crowd roared its approval of the result with boundless enthusiasm. The momentum was with the Hotshots and Ajay ratcheted the speed a notch leaping to a 5-0 lead in the second game.
When they returned on court after a short respite at 7-1 to Ajay, the 24th ranked resident of Bengaluru continued to play a forceful game of power and placement to keep his higher ranked opponent in check.
The dominant Indian was able to control the game by moving Tien Minh back and forth with intelligent dribbles, interspersed by powerful punches. Try as he may, Tien Minh was unable to bridge the gap with the 25 year old Indian.
At the second break, Ajay had already built a 10 point gap and it grew to an insurmountable eleven points at 18-7. Tienh Minh sought to mount a late push, but Ajay was alert to the threat to wrap up the second set with consummate ease.