Three years after rocking Jakarta with his first ever Premier title on the world circuit, Kento Momota today completed a perfect comeback from badminton’s wilderness to World Tour success.
Momota, banned by Japan’s badminton association for 12 months in 2016, for matters away from court, has since won six titles away from the glare of the world, building his way back in the likes of Vietnam, Canada, Macau and the Czech Republic.
Now, after winning the Indonesia Open – the most prestigious prize at the highest Super 1000 status on the brand new HSBC BWF World Tour – for the second time, the 23 year old Japanese star’s reputation is firmly reinstated.
He reached as high as second in the world in 2016. But expert observers in the game, say Kento is stronger, fitter and more tactically astute these days and, with his explosive streak still in tact, he is likely to close in on that position come next Thursday’s world ranking update.
Now with eyes set on the World Championships at the end of this month, could Kento, a bronze medallist three years ago in Jakarta, be the man they all have to stop?
Today’s defeat against World Champion and World number one Viktor Axelsen should be career defining in itself if not an indication to his form.
But against a backdrop of impressive wins against Lee Chong Wei, Son Wan Ho, Chou Tien Chen and Kidambi Srikanth in the past two weeks in Malaysia and Indonesia, today’s finals day win came as little surprise to many.
At eighth in the world, he has in fact, now beaten all seven above him this year In the standings.
After reaching the Super 750 Malaysia Open final seven days ago, those same experts were predicting the Istora would be crowning the Japanese star all over again before the event unfolded.
He stormed into a 11-1 first set lead at the Istora before pressing home his superiority winning, 21-14, 21-9 against Axelsen, who was untypically off colour.
"This victory means so much to me ahead of the World Championship and Asian Games," he said.