Momota stuns Chen for Asian title in Wuhan
Japan's Kento Momota shocked Olympic gold-medalist Chen Long to be crowned Asian badminton champion yesterday, a year after his return from a gambling ban.
Momota, who was barred ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics and returned to action last year, floored the Chinese favorite 21-17, 21-13 at the Badminton Asia Championships in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province.
The 17th-ranked left-hander had never previously won a game against Chen but he dominated the final, reeling off seven straight points to clinch victory when the world No. 3 netted.
The Japanese shuttler went into the break in the first game up 11-8. But Chen went on a 6-1 spree to take a 14-12 lead, only for Momota to strike back with a five-point winning streak. “It was the turning point of the match when I led 14-12 in the first game, I was caught out by his pace,” Chen said.
Momota clenched his fists in triumph and kissed the Japan badge on his singlet after the win, which caps his recovery from a troubled period.
The 23-year-old was banned by Japanese authorities in 2016 after being caught gambling at an illegal casino, and spent a year on the sidelines until last May.
His breakthrough comes after four previous defeats to Chen, a two-time world champion, and follows his straight-games dismissal of Malaysian Lee Chong Wei in the semifinals.
There was further disappointment for China when Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu-ying, the world No. 2, beat Chen Yufei 21-19, 22-20 to win the women’s title.
But China’s Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping pulled off a surprise by seeing off Indonesian top seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir 21-17, 21-17 in the mixed doubles final.
And Chinese pair Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen also gave the home fans something to cheer when they defended their men’s doubles crown.
The duo rallied to win 11-21, 21-10, 21-13 against Japanese third seeds Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda.
“It’s a match worth carefully reviewing and summarizing,” Li said afterwards. “We had a poor start in the first game, but we recovered well in the second and leveled the score. In the third, our confidence was back.”
Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota won an all-Japanese women’s doubles final 21-18, 18-21, 21-15 over Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.