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White Nights International Challenge 2018: Ajay Jayaram and the pair of Tarun Kona-Saurabh Sharma enter semi-finals

377   //    07 Jul 2018, 19:55 IST

Ajay Jayaram

Indian shuttlers have made a deep run at the White Nights International Challenge tournament, with Ajay Jayaram and the men’s doubles pair of Tarun Kona and Saurabh Sharma making it to the semi-finals of this event held at Gatchina, Russia on Saturday, even as the Indian contention has come to an end at the Indonesia Open this week.

The former India No. 1 men’s singles shuttler, Jayaram defeated Indonesia’s Andre Marteen 21-16, 21-19 in just 34 minutes in the quarter-finals.

Jayaram has a tough task up next as he faces the third seed and World No. 54 Thomas Rouxel for a place in the summit clash. The Mumbai shuttler was ranked as high as No. 13 in June of last year when things started going downhill for him.

A stubborn hamstring injury cost him a lot of time and he was forced to miss many tournaments even this year. His ranking, consequently, made a nosedive to below 100.

Having joined the Tour again in April, the 30-year-old started showing flashes of his brilliance at the US Open last month, where he reached the semi-finals. Now ranked 96th, Jayaram has brought that confidence into the White Nights tournament this week and has won all three of his matches so far in straight games.

India’s Hemanth Gowda also reached the quarter-finals, but went down fighting 14-21, 21-18, 14-21 to Rouxel in 1 hour 3 minutes.

In men’s doubles, Tarun Kona and Saurabh Sharma have been seeded second and they have justified their billing. The all-Indian duo hasn’t dropped a game in three matches on their way to the last-four stage.

In the semi-finals, the pair will take on the unseeded German combine of Bjarne Geiss and Jan Colin Völker.

The World No. 58 pair is trying to reach their fourth final of the 2018 season. They have earlier won the title at the Jamaica International in March.