Kento’s motor running again

Finding his rhythm: Japan’s Kento Momota returning a shot to Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn during the semi-final match.

THE past nightmare in Malaysia has been forgotten.

Japan’s former world No. 1 Kento Momota can now look ahead with hope after reaching the final with a 21-11, 21-12 win over Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in a 42-minute semi-final match yesterday.

His smile after the win said it all.

Momota’s last visit in the country ended in misery when he was involved in a car crash on his way back after winning the Malaysian Masters title at the same arena in 2020.

Lady luck seems to have smiled on him this year. He received a walkover in the first round against Kanthapon Wancharoen of Thailand while his quarter-final opponent Shesar Hiren of Indonesia conceded a walkover when he was leading 13-6.

He is now on the brink of his first Malaysian Open title after finishing runners-up to Lee Chong Wei in 2018. He will take on Viktor Axelsen of Denmark next.

“I am so happy to reach the final after going through many difficulties and want to give my best for the people who have been supporting me during my struggles,” said Momota.

“I totally did not have any confidence today (yesterday). I just tried to move around and reduced mistakes. I kept it simple. My shots were very basic and I didn’t try to do anything else.

“I still don’t feel confident going into the final and with the support of the fans, I will give my best tomorrow (today).

“There is also no advantage although I had two walkovers as the final is a new game but I will try my best.”

In the other semi-finals, top seed Axelsen was dragged to three games for the third time in the tournament before subduing Jonatan Christie of Indonesia 21-15, 20-22, 21-11 in 62 minutes.

Axelsen was also forced to three games by Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong in the second round and Anthony Ginting of Indonesia in the last eight on Friday.

The Danes’ main concern is to recover from the gruelling match before facing Momota in the final.

The head-to-head record is in favour of the Japanese which stands at 14-2 but all his victories were achieved before the accident in 2020.

“My celebration towards the end was to show that I still have some energy left in the tank. The most important thing for me is to recover for the final,” said Axelsen.

“The Malaysian Open is as important as other tournaments. I want to win every tournament that I play and this will be a great title for me to win.

“We want to play against the best in the world and Momota is a fantastic talent and it is good to see him back playing well and I hope we can have a great match tomorrow (today).”

The Dane lost in the quarter-finals in the last Malaysian Open in 2019.

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