Kento can still pop up

Glorious swansong: Kento Momota hopes to end his career on a high by helping Japan win the Thomas Cup title in Chengdu.

PETALING JAYA: Japan’s Kento Momota has the opportunity to end his career on a high in the Thomas Cup Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu.

The former two-time world champion had announced that he will hang up his racquet after the prestigious team meet and will be eyeing one last piece of glory before riding off into the sunset.

Momota was only 19 when he played a crucial role in Japan’s stunning triumph in the 2014 edition in New Delhi.

Momota, who was making his debut in the Thomas Cup, played second singles behind Kenichi Tago and went on to break Malaysian hearts by winning one of the points to propel his team to a 3-2 win in an epic final.

The Japanese won all five of his matches in the tournament and went on to become a world beater after his dream debut.

Momota, though, was dealt a huge blow after he was banned for gambling and missed out on the next edition in 2016.

Japan suffered in his absence and went out in the quarter-finals after losing 2-3 to eventual champions Denmark.

Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.

In 2018, Momota returned and helped the team finish runners-up to China. It was also the year he won the singles crown in the World Championship. He successfully retain the title in 2019.

The 29-year-old Momota has never failed to win a medal in the Thomas Cup after helping his team to semi-final finishes in 2020 and 2022.

Even the serious car crash in the beginning of 2020 did not dampen Momota’s spirit although he has never been the same since.

Despite never regaining the form that saw him capture a whopping 11 titles in 2019, he could still play a defining role for Japan in the team meet this time as the third singles.

World Championships (2023) silver medallist Kodai Naraoka, Kenta Nishimoto and Koki Watanabe are the other singles players in the team while 2021 world title winners Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi, Akira Koga-Taichi Saito and Kenya Mitsuhashi-Hiroki Okamura have been included in the doubles.

Japan are in a favourable group containing Taiwan, Germany and the Czech Republic and should have no problem making it to the last eight.

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