Ajay Jayaram is now on the right track

"Now that I have done well, it makes me want to work even harder to get even better results," says the Indian shuttler.

Ajay Jayaram has learnt to be more patient in his approach.   -  PTI

Ajay Jayaram’s recent resurgence has seen him record two stellar results in a matter of two weeks. A silver at the Korea Open Super Series badminton event was followed by a Dutch Open gold, and Jayaram believes that more podium finishes are to come.

The World No. 26 has also reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Master Grand Prix and the Russia Open in the latter half of this year. This marks a turnaround in Jayaram’s career, which had once threatened to succumb to injuries and self-doubt.

The Chennai-born, Mumbai-raised Jayaram, who now trains at the Tom’s Academy in Bengaluru under decorated coach Tom John, states that he is now on the right track. It has, however, been a long journey. The 28-year-old Indian shuttler recalls his struggle with a shoulder injury last year, a period of low self-confidence (in 2010) and much more in a chat with Sportstar.

Excerpts:

Question: What do you attribute your recent successes to?

Answer: It cannot be narrowed down to one single thing. I have had to make a big effort for a long period, and it is now paying off. There are a few changes I have made — in technical aspects — which have helped. In the past, my game was all about being aggressive — hit a smash and come in. In the past few months, I’ve learnt how to be more patient. I’ve also worked on being a little more consistent in my defensive play.

Tell us about your coach, Tom John.

I owe a lot to him. I was training at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in 2010, when Tom John — then the national coach of Portugal — made a brief visit. I had a couple of training sessions with him, and I liked his approach. He then called me over to Portugal, and I played in many tournaments there. This helped me gain ranking points. Before I started working with him, I was struggling to break into the top-70 in the world rankings. Within just three months of playing in Portugal, I was in the top-30. Tom’s methods are unique, and he believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.

Your parents have played a big part in your career as well…

Yes, they have. They have been very encouraging, ever since I was a child. That has not changed, my parents are still as positive as they were when I was a kid. Having good parents is a good positive for any sportsperson. My father does not get into the technical details of my badminton matches too much, but he is the one I talk to if I am feeling down. In fact, I talk to my parents almost daily.

How did you deal with the six-month injury layoff last year?

That was a hard time. More than the physical pain, the mental challenge was huge. In that situation, it is very important to keep working towards getting fit, even if things are not going your way. Once reasonably fit, you cannot immediately go back to competing against top-class players. Getting to full form takes time.

Tom John recently said that these medals will mark a turnaround in your career. He said that you were unlucky to not get consistently good results in the past...

I don’t think it had much to do with luck, but yes, the Korea Open silver was a huge positive. It was definitely a big confidence boost for me. Now that I have done well, it makes me want to work even harder to get even better results.

Do you believe that you should be included in the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme — a government-run programme which provides financial assistance to Indian medal prospects at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics?

Yes, I definitely believe so. It will be greatly beneficial for me. This will be the perfect time for me to use those benefits.