After the Badminton World Federation decided to introduce the new scoring system on a trial basis, Ajay Jayaram walked away with the honor of being the first Indian to win the badminton Grand Prix tournament at Almere in the Netherlands. In an exciting final that lasted for full five games, under the new 11 x 5 scoring system, Jayaram halted the big strides of Indonesia’s 19-year old Ihsan Maulana Mustofa. The Indonesian is currently making big waves on the world badminton scene with some creditable victories in recent matches. But the world no.66 Jayaram has also had a phenomenal tournament, where he faced some tough opponents in his part of the draw. He had to overcome a tough challenge in the pre-quarterfinals against Hong Kong’s Chun Hei Tam that brought him face-to-face with the third-seeded Indonesian and world no.26 Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka. After overcoming Rumbaka, Jayaram beat England’s top seeded player Rajiv Ouseph in the semifinal to set up the summit clash with Mustofa. The Indian kept his head balanced in a five-game 46-minute battle of wits against the Indonesian before emerging the Dutch GP champion with a score-line of 10-11, 11-6, 11-7, 1-11, 11-9.
For some time, the BWF has been keen on testing a new five-game scoring system of 11 x 5 with the sole intention of making the game more interesting. The BWF Council has asked the tournament hosts at the level of GP matches to carry out the trial of 11 x 5 option, after discussing the issue with all stakeholders. It was generally agreed that testing this alternative had some merit. In recent years, the increasing time span of matches has compromised the level of excitement. The BWF President Poul-Erik Hoyer feels that the 11 x 5 scoring system will create more excitement and spectator interest if the match time is reduced. Hoyer added that based on feedback from tournament hosts and players, the final decision would be taken during the Council meeting in November 2014.
The Dutch Grand Prix adopted the BWF recommendations and matches were played as per the new system. Jayaram stole the limelight as he became the first player from India to win the tournament under the new scoring system. Jayaram’s triumph, however, did not come without hard work. He was seeded 13th in the tournament and no one could have predicted how he would move through in his draw. His first match was against Netherlands’ Erik Meijs, whom he beat 11-10, 11-7, 9-11, 11-1. In the second match, he defeated Finland’s Eetu Heino 11-4, 11-9, 11-6 and that brought the Indian to face with Hong Kong’s Chun Hei Tam. After an easy 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 victory over Tam, Jayaram faced his first real challenge against world no.26, Indonesia’s third seeded player Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka. The Indian lost the first two games 9-11, 9-11 and with Rumbaka playing as good as ever, Jayaram appeared at the receiving end. But the Indian did not give and raised his game to take the next three games at 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 and entered the semifinal to meet the tournament top seed Rajiv Oussef of England. Surprisingly, the Indian found little resistance from the Englishman as he scored a straight games’ 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 win to enter the final. In the final, Jayaram played Indonesia’s 19-year old Ihsan Maulana Mustofa. Though Mustofa is too far below in the BWF rankings, he had upset some seeded players in recent matches. But Jayaram played with determination and came through in great style by beating the Indonesian in five-games with the scores of 10-11, 11-6, 11-7, 1-11, 11-9. Jayaram maintained his composure despite losing the fourth game 1-11 and brought all his shuttling skills to fore in the decider.
At the beginning of 2014, Jayaram was ranked 21 in the world but lack of competitive matches after his shoulder surgery has brought him down to 66. After a seven-month vacuum, he returned to competitive badminton in August 2014 to represent India at Denmark’s World Championship and later played in the Indonesia Open but the Dutch GP is the biggest win of his badminton career.