PETALING JAYA: Is Kento Momota’s badminton career nearing an end?
The former Japan men’s singles shuttler was once feared by many but now, the two-time world champion has turned out to be just another ordinary player trying to gain prominence in the men’s singles.
In the recent Malaysian Masters, the 28-year-old went down in the opening round to China’s Weng Hong Yang.
He was supposed to meet another player from China, Li Shifeng in the first round of the Singapore Open starting tomorrow. Momota, however, has pulled out, leaving the path open for Shifeng to progress and play the winner of the opening round match between Hong Yang and Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia.
He also withdrew from the Thailand Masters, which ended yesterday, due to a waist injury.
Momota has lost in the early rounds of most his tournaments since finishing as the runners-up to Viktor Axelsen of Denmark at last year’s Malaysian Open in July. Axelsen sent Momota packing 21-4, 21-7 in one of the most one-sided finals ever.
His last title was the Indonesian Masters in November 2021 and has now dropped from the world No. 1 spot to 32nd in the world.
It looks impossible for him to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympic Games as three other Japanese players are ranked ahead of him – Kodai Naraoka (3), Kenta Nishimoto (11) and Kanta Tsuneyama (14). Youngster Koki Watanabe is ranked 34th in the world but it will not be too long before he too will overtake the former great player.
A country can have two players if both of them are ranked in the top 16 by the end of the one-year qualifying in April next year.