Kento Momota is set for a long awaited return to the BWF World Tour when he takes to court for the All England Open (March 17-21).
The Japanese star begins with a first-round encounter against India’s P. Kashyap, and if he wins, Malaysia’s Liew Daren and Lee Zii Jia could be in his way in the subsequent rounds.
He will get to see how much the rest have caught up to him after being out of the World Tour for over a year.
After winning at the Malaysia Masters in January last year, the world number one was hurt in a car crash and had to undergo an eye socket operation that put him out of commission for several months.
During the period, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the badminton season and the Tokyo Olympics, which Momota was hot favourite to win.
Just as he was about to resume his career at the Bangkok Tour in January, the southpaw tested positive for the coronavirus at the Narita Airport, forcing him and the rest of the Japanese contingent to withdraw.
Due to that, Momota had to bid his time and watch as others close the gap on his number one spot, especially Viktor Axelsen who won three of four titles on offer this year.
If all goes well, both men will meet in the All-England men’s singles final, won by Axelsen last year.
Returning to court is not just a restart of Momota’s career but also the first step towards gearing himself to be in top form when the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics rolls along this July.
The Kagawa-born was banned from the Rio spectacle in 2016 after slapped with a one-year ban for illegal gambling, a wrong that he said he wanted to make right.
“In 2016, I betrayed many people and caused them a lot of trouble, so I want to make amends and play with gratitude in Tokyo. I am going to carry everyone’s emotions and take them with me to the Olympics stage,” he told KyodoNews.