India’s Ajay Jayaram turned in a vintage performance to leave Viktor Axelsen stranded in the Men’s Singles second round of the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open today.
Jayaram – who had a 2-2 record against the Dane going into the match – conjured a package of subtle caresses, held-back flicks and precise half-smashes to leave the Yonex-Sunrise India Open winner frustrated during a 9-21 21-14 21-19 loss.
It was Jayaram’s wristwork that set the game up for him, and Axelsen was frequently on all fours as he struggled to anticipate the Indian’s deceptive shots – which, infused with a bit of delay, caused the big Dane all sorts of problems. Jayaram even dared to lob a few high serves, the last of which gave him match point as Axelsen misjudged it.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Jayaram (featured image) said, asked about the high serve. “After the first one clicked I thought I could do a couple more. In pressure situations it’s hard to do the parallel serve.
“I’m very happy with the way I played. I’m happy that after I lost the first set I managed to keep my cool and fight back. I did well after the first set to play intelligently at the net. So I had to occasionally hold back and occasionally push the shuttle. I’ve played him a few times, I knew I had a good chance. He doesn’t really enjoy my deception. With the drift I thought I had an advantage, because I beat him in Korea (2015) where the hall had a bit of drift.”
In the quarter-finals, Jayaram will take on Korea’s Son Wan Ho, who had it rather easy against Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto.
The bottom quarter will see China’s Lin Dan against Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie. Lin handed a badminton lesson to Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, 21-8 21-13, while Christie edged past Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen 21-23 21-17 21-19 in a match of identical styles.
Women’s Singles defending champion Ratchanok Intanon had some trouble quelling the challenge of Thai compatriot Busanan Ongbamrungphan. The seventh seed, who is struggling with a right ankle injury, prevailed 23-21 21-18.
“I feel pressure when I play my compatriot because my ranking is higher and I feel I have to show I’m better and that I’m not nervous,” said Intanon.
“I visited a doctor in Thailand after the India Open to get my ankle checked. I didn’t know I can play here. The doctor asked me to rest for a week. But I decided to play here and try the first round. I played well so I decided to take it step by step.”
Other players to make the quarter-finals included Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying and Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.
Thailand’s Bodin Isara and Savitree Amitrapai nearly got the better of Mixed Doubles top seeds Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen (China). Matching their opponents shot for shot, the Thais had two game points in the first and a brief lead in the second, but could not keep their serves tight enough on the big points.
Zheng/Chen will face Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah who got the better of Indonesia’s Edi Subaktiar/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja 16-21 21-17 21-14.
“We’ve played Zheng and Chen three times – we lost twice and got lucky once,” said Chau. “We need to play much better and focussed to have a chance. They both are very strong. The speed will be much faster than today. The girl is very strong. It’s almost like playing Men’s Doubles!”