mid-day's 39th anniversary: The pain man who goes to court
This shuttler can befuddle the best names in his sport, and handles the big waves of injuries with bravado
Ajay Jayaram, 30
A little more than a year ago, Chembur played home to the World No. 13 badminton player, Ajay Jayaram. Don't note the inauspiciousness of his rank, but what it took to get there. Injuries may have closed the competitive doors on him, but he continues to be Mumbai's best badminton player currently.
Reaching the Dutch Open final in 2016 after winning the title in 2014 and 2015, was a stupendous feat and if not for injury, his talent, ability and temperament would have been further hailed. Jayaram says injuries surprise you because they crop up when you least expect them. Four months after reaching his career-best ranking of World No. 13 in April 2017, he suffered a knee injury. He recovered and played the Senior National Championships in Nagpur in November, but pulled his hamstring, which led to his withdrawal from events at China and Hong Kong.
It also meant that he was out of action for close to eight months. His rankings dipped and he is currently ranked No. 132 in the world. "I want to fulfill the aim of winning a Super Series title. As of now, I aim to maximise my potential and break back into the top-20 [world rankings]."
It is family that he falls back on and they are his inspiration for a comeback. "I enjoy my time with them, especially with my niece and nephew, Avni and Arjun. Avni has also started playing badminton, which is nice. When I was based in Bangalore, I used to wait to come home and spend time with them," he adds.
Besides badminton, Jayaram is passionate about art and travel. "I like sketching. As a kid I liked to draw, but I think the passion was rekindled in 2016 when I got myself some pencils and a book and tried my hand at portraits and 3D sketches. I am self-taught and I have enjoyed doing it. I thought that I should use my time a little more constructively on weekends and that's how I got back to sketching. You can see my work on social media," he smiles.
When he travels, he likes going solo. Although his sport has allowed him a fair bit of it, it is mostly hotel room to court and back. "I love the mountains and in 2016, I went to Ladakh. Being in the Himalayas was an overwhelming experience," he says. He has a weakness for sweets, and likes indulging in a pizza occasionally. But he knows that nothing tastes as sweet as that next badminton title.
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