PETALING JAYA: A determined Kento Momota restored his battered pride at home by becoming his nation’s first-ever men’s singles badminton champion in the Japan Open in Tokyo.
And the 24-year-old ended his country’s 41-year wait in style by disposing of Khosit Phetpradab 21-14, 21-11 in a 48-minute one-sided final to the delight of his home fans.
Japan has never won the men’s singles title since the tournament’s inception in 1977.
It was indeed a dream run for Momota at his home tournament – just two years after he became the national embarrassment following a gambling issue that saw him banned for one year, just before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Instead of giving up, Momota vowed to bounce back strongly and restore the fans’ confidence in him. He served his one-year ban and went on to win the world title this year in Nanjing, China, but nothing can beat the feeling of being honoured in his own backyard yesterday.
The win also made up for his disappointment of losing at the Asian Games in Indonesia recently.
The Japan Open was extra special too for world No. 3 Momota as he defeated his idol and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China for the first time in their quarter-final clash.
With the win over Lin Dan, Momota has beaten every other top player in the world and looks set to become the world No. 1 and rule the badminton world for a long time.
Meanwhile, Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota made it a great day for Japan when they upset Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan of China 21-15, 21-12 for the women’s doubles title.
Japan was also hoping for their third title but Nozomi Okuhara went down fighting 19-21, 21-17, 11-21 to reigning champion Carolina Marin of Spain in the women’s singles final.