Interview: My best is yet to come: Ajay Jayaram
Indian men’s shuttler Ajay Jayaram is enjoying a good run – the 29-year-old Mumbai broke into the top-20 recently for the first time ever following semifinal appearances at the US Open and Canadian Open. Jayaram – currently ranked 19 in the world – spoke about his game and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q. How does it feel to break into the top-20 - your career best singles ranking so far?
It definitely feels great to break into the top 20 again. However, the hope, this time, is to go further by maintaining a consistent level of performance.
Q. You had two semifinal finishes at the US Open and Canadian Open. In hindsight with a bit of luck, you could have won both these titles. Your thoughts?
True. I have mixed feelings about both those performances. I did play some good matches to reach the last 4 stage in both tournaments. However, I can't be happy about my performance in both the semifinals I played. I struggled a bit with my shoulder in Canada when I was up against Lee Hyun-il which made it hard for me to give my best.
I thought I had a much better chance in US where I played against the young Japanese, Kanta Tsuneyama. But I never really found any rhythm and the match slipped away before I could settle down. Disappointing end to an otherwise good tournament, but lots to learn.
Q. There weIre many Indians in the fray - Praneeth, Pranoy, Guru and Anand among others. How satisfying is it to make it to the semis of US Open?
Winning matches and making it to the semis or finals of a tournament always feels good irrespective of whether there are Indians or not. Also, considering the number of Indian men's singles players who are currently in the top 50 and 100 in the world, and a rising number of juniors who are always eager to do well and make a mark, most tournaments would feature a good number of Indians. And this is always great because you're bound to see more encouraging performances as has been observed in the recent past.
Q. Do you think at 29 you are playing best badminton of your career?
I guess and, more importantly, I hope my best is yet to come
Q. What are the positives you think has helped you to up your performance and rankings?
My performances in the past few months prior to this circuit had dipped owing to lack of training. So I decided to skip the Australia and Indonesia Open and get some weeks of good quality training. I'm glad that it has showed positive results. I still believe, however, that a lot more work needs to be done.
Q. Every player looks to improve - what will be your improvement areas?
My fitness has risen over the past month and that's something I will have to maintain. Apart from that I believe adding a bit more of variation in my strokes and varying the general pace of rallies from time to time will help me immensely
Q. How has been your experience of playing against the singles' top players. What does it take to beat them?
It's always great to play against the top players. You learn a lot each time. For that matter, you learn something from every good match you play, win or lose. What sets the top few apart is, I guess, their confidence and ability to perform at a constant level match after match. Another very important aspect I believe is how well you manage to stay injury free.
Q. What are the learnings you had from playing in the PBL?
PBL was different in the sense that you had an added element of pressure of your team depending on you. So learning to handle that was something I could take out of that.
Q. What goals have you set for yourself for the future?
I am currently enjoying training and playing/competing at this level. That is a very important thing for me. I think something as basic, but immensely difficult as giving your best and playing at a consistent level in every match, every tournament is something I want to focus on. Last year I finished with a silver in a Super Series event. So hoping to do one better and emerge with a win.