Axelsen confident of retaining All-England title despite Momota’s return

Sheer brilliance: Japan’s world No. 1 Kento Momota won the All-Japan Championships in December last year. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Expect world No. 1 and top seed Kento Momota to hit the ground running when he makes his first international comeback after a lapse of 15 months at the All-England.

At least, that is what World No. 2 Viktor Axelsen thinks of his nemesis, whom he has described as a genuine threat at the Arena Birmingham from March 17-21.

The 27-year-old Dane won last year’s All-England in the absence of the Japanese superstar, who has been out of action since he survived a fatal road accident in Kuala Lumpur in January last year.

The incident took place a day after he powered to the Malaysian Masters victory, where he defeated Axelsen in the final for a whopping 14th win in 15 meetings.

Despite the prospects of facing the same ‘insanely high-level’ Momota in the All-England final again, Axelsen believes that he has what it takes to retain his title.

Axelsen is certainly not short in confidence after building on a fine run of form which saw him capture the back-to-back Thailand Opens in the Asian leg of World Tour in Bangkok last month.

He also reached the final of the World Tour Finals but was denied a hattrick of titles by compatriot Anders Antonsen.

“I go into every tournament believing I can win, ” Axelsen told Danish broadcaster TV2 Sport.

“Kento Momota is back and it’s a tough field (of competitors) where you will be punished if you do not play with your best performance.

“I do not know at all where he stands... but I assume that he will come in the best version of himself and play at the insanely high level he has been before.”

Denmark’s head coach Kenneth Jonassen too has singled out the two-time world champion Momota as the man to beat.

“There’s no doubt that Momota will come (to the All-England) incredibly well prepared.

“He has been the best men’s singles player in recent years, ” he said.

The 23-year-old, who had bagged 11 titles in 2019, showed that he had not lost any of his brilliance en route to winning the All-Japan Championships in December last year.

Momota was supposed to make his much-anticipated international return in Bangkok last month, but unfortunately he could not make the trip after he was tested positive for Covid-19 at the airport before his departure.

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