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White Nights International Challenge 2018: Ajay Jayaram upsets third seed to enter final

631   //    08 Jul 2018, 13:58 IST

Ajay Jayaram

Former India No. 1 men’s singles shuttler, Ajay Jayaram continues his rampaging run at the White Nights International Challenge tournament as he made it through to the final of this event in Gatchina, Russia on Saturday. The unseeded Indian needed three games to get the better of the third seed and World No. 54 Thomas Rouxel 21-16, 14-21, 21-7 in the semi-finals in 47 minutes.

Jayaram will take on the top seed and World No. 43 Pablo Abian in the title clash on Sunday. The Spaniard too had to work hard to earn a 14-21, 21-9, 21-16 win over the sixth seeded Sergey Sirant of Russia in the other semi-final.

The Indian men’s doubles pair of Tarun Kona and Saurabh Sharma, however, did not enjoy the same good fortunes. The duo, seeded second at this tournament, went down fighting 21-18, 13-21, 17-21 to the unseeded German combine of Bjarne Geiss and Jan Colin Völker.

This was the first final on the BWF circuit for the 30-year-old Jayaram since losing the final of the Dutch Open to Wang Tzu Wei in 2016. It has been a tough few months for the Mumbai shuttler.

Immediately after reaching his career-high ranking of 13th in June of last year, things started going downhill. A stubborn hamstring injury kept him out of action for a long time, robbing him the chance to build on his career-high ranking.

Jayaram couldn’t play a full season even this year. It was only in April that he made a full-fledged return to competition at the China Masters. He started showing flashes of his brilliance at the US Open last month, where he made it to the semi-finals.

The performance hauled his ranking from below the 100s to 96th. Jayaram would be hoping to gain more confidence and ranking points from this week’s White Nights International Challenge with a win over Pablo Abian in the final.

The Spaniard holds a 2-1 record over the Indian and they haven’t met in the last five years.