Skycity New Zealand Badminton Open: Jayaram rallies from a game down to march into quarterfinals

File Photo: Ajay Jayaram of India (Getty Images)

File Photo: Ajay Jayaram of India (Getty Images)

India’s Ajay Jayaram warded off stiff resistance from Korea’s Ji Hoon Hong before sealing his berth in the men’s singles quarterfinals of the Skycity New Zealand Badminton Open being played at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland on Friday.

The third seeded shuttler – the highest seeded Indian in the tournament – rallied from a game down to overcome the 106th ranked Korean 14-21, 28-26, 21-13 in a contest that lasted 69 minutes.

Ajay appeared off-colour in the opening game, committing several unforced errors, allowing Hong to run away with a decent lead.

The world number 36 struggled to be at his best in the rallies nor did he inspire confidence at the net.

Hong made the most of Ajay’s sloppy beginning to march ahead midway through the opening game. The Korean was clinical at the net, coming up with five net winners.

He picked up five points on the trot to dominate the Indian before going on to bag the first game at 21-14.

The second game was much more well contested. Ajay, who crashed out in the second round of the Yonex Australian Open a week back, dug deep into his reserves against his Korean opponent who was giving nothing away.

It was a no-holds-barred contest as both players forged ahead back and forth as the game went into deuce. Ajay frittered away four game points before finally winning the gruelling game at 28-26.

Hong also had his chances to close out the match in the second game. He was guilty of squandering three match points, which stretched the match into a three-game affair.

As it is seen in most contests, the winner of a tight game often takes that confidence into the next game and the morale of the loser dips. And that’s precisely happened with Ajay.

Riding high on confidence, Ajay made a strong start sewing up a handy lead. Hong, who looked dispirited by the narrow second game loss, suddenly went off the boil in the decider. His smashes sailed wide even as unforced errors started to flow from his racquet.

The Indian capitalized on Hong’s loose play and bagged ten consecutive points to completely pound the morale of his opponent.

The decider became a mere winning formality as Ajay clinched it at 21-13.

Ajay next runs into Chinese qualifier Xue Song in the last eight stage. Ajay has never played against the 216th ranked opponent before.

Earlier, on day two of the tournament, four men’s players – Anand Pawar, RMV Gurusaidutt, Chetan Anand and Kirkesh Dhandhwal bowed out while Sarada Jasti was shown the door in the women’s singles category.

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