Total dictatorship of men’s singles badminton is fast shifting into the calm yet swashbuckling hands of Kento Momota, especially after another fine triumph at the China Open last weekend.
In the current competitive arena of this high intensity sport, Momota, still only 25, is racking up the titles and pulling away from the chasing pack. There are quite a few explosive talents in this chasing pack, mind you.
There is Anders Antonsen, the young Dane who announced himself this year by making it to the World Championships final. Not forgetting Viktor Axelsen, Antonsen’s lanky team-mate who is as good as anyone if he is fit. Chinese duo Shi Yuqi and Chen Long are always in the fray, and there’s Indonesia’s talents of Jonatan Christie and Anthony Ginting to make this men’s individual affair a compelling one.
Not as compelling if this Japanese isn’t in the picture, though.
After capturing three of the biggest individual titles this year – the All England, the Asia Championships and the World Championships – Momota is the man every other man is looking to beat.
But the world number one is brushing them aside, as fast and furious as they come at him.
At the China Open final, Momota held a 19-15 lead in the third game when Ginting called for a time-out because of a blister in his leg. Almost five to seven minutes lapsed for the Indonesian to receive treatment and when he returned, Momota was doing his best just to stay warm. Clearly his momentum was gone, as Ginting leveled at 19-19.
But Momota kept cool, as he always has, forcing his opponent into two unforced errors to claim another major World Tour title this year.
"We were both tired at that point of time, so it became a mental battle. I’m glad I persevered and won through my fighting spirit," Momota told BWF after the win.
"It’s more than staying calm. I have this determination to win each and every point which wins me matches."
Ginting, in fact, became the only shuttler to push Momota to the limit recently. Before that, Axelsen managed to nick a game off him at the All-England final before losing. At the Asia Championships final, Shi Yuqi took him to three games, but he picked apart the Chinese 21-8 in the rubber.
Momota saved his best for the World Championships, winning all his matches in straight games, without much of a contest from any of his opponents. The final against Antonsen looked nothing more than a one-sided sparring match, which Momota clinched 21-9, 21-3.
Retaining the world crown without moving into second gear, all done with finesse, craft, guile, harnessed and executed to perfection. Not forgetting he also secured the German Open, Singapore Open and Japan Open titles this year.
Momota, the once persecuted gambler, is now all hands on deck each time he steps on to court. His aces are for all to see when the show is on, but he will take some stopping.
Wed Sep 25 2019
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