Badminton: Momota hangs tough for glory

Badminton: Momota hangs tough for glory
Kento Momota.

He threw his racket into the crowd, after refusing to throw in the towel when he was down in the decisive game in the men's singles final at the OUE Singapore Open yesterday.

His opponent Hu Yun sent him sprawling with a series of powerful smashes and deceptive cross-court flicks in front of a 9,000-strong crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and was clearly on the front foot in the rubber set.

But Kento Momota was hardly beaten, even at 7-11 down in the decisive game. It was the first time he had been taken the full distance in the tournament, yet, just 20, Japan's rising badminton star kept his nerve, and fought back.

He drew level at 15-15, then moved into the lead after a successful challenge and never looked back, claiming his first Superseries title with a hard-fought 21-17, 16-21, 21-15 victory.

This is the first time a Japanese shuttler has won a Superseries men's singles event and Momota, who was a key member of Japan's victorious Thomas Cup winning squad last year, pocketed his biggest cheque of US$22,500 ($30,800).

The significance was not lost on the handsome world No. 10.

The 2012 world junior champion and newly-minted history-maker said: "I overcame the pressure of the occasion and proved to my countrymen that I'm a worthy winner.

DRAUGHT

"Surely there will be more pressure on me after this win, but I will try my best to handle it and continue to be a leader in the team."

It was a thrilling 79-minute encounter in which both players struggled with the draught and took turns to dominate.

Hong Kong's world No. 13 Hu had no answer to Momota's explosive play in the first game, but improved with superb movement and feathered returns in the second.

In the rubber, Hu looked to have the upper hand, taking an early lead and celebrating emphatically at the halfway mark, only to lose his focus and willpower after Momota's successful challenge at 15-15.

Hu, who had eliminated world No. 1 Chen Long in the quarter-finals, admitted: "I was more relaxed in the earlier rounds. Playing in a final is always going to be different and I was more tense.

"I wanted to win too badly and didn't play to my usual standards."

Said Momota: "When I was 7-11 down, Hu Yun was really aggressive and excited, and I did feel that it would be difficult to win this one.

"But, after we switched courts at the break, I realised the shuttlecock was not flying too fast so I tried to pin him back, and it worked... my next aim will be to win a medal at the world championships in Jakarta in August."

It was another epic showdown in the women's singles final as China's world No. 11 Sun Yu saved three match-points in the rubber and then reeled off five straight points to beat Taiwan's world No. 6 Tai Tzu-ying 21-13, 19-21, 22-20 in 72 minutes.

Standing at 1.83 metres, 21-year-old Sun said: "When I was 17-20 down in the last game, I just told myself to win one point at a time and to keep attacking.

"Up till that point, my plan had been to focus on my defence and counter-attack. So I think at the end, being more decisive in attack helped swing the match in my favour."

"I'm happy to win my first Superseries title in my first Superseries final, so Singapore is a lucky ground for me.

"I definitely look forward to come back and defend my title next year."

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 13, 2015.
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