Kento Momota shocks Chen Long to win 2018 Asia Championships title

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Kento Momota wins men's singles title at 2018 Badminton Asia Championships. (photo: AFP)
Kento Momota wins men's singles title at 2018 Badminton Asia Championships. (photo: AFP)

Wuhan: Former World No. 2 Former world No. 2 Kento Momota of Japan finished the week in Wuhan with style on Sunday where he stunned Rio Olympic gold medalist Chen Long of China 21-17, 21-13 to win his maiden Asia Championships title, one year after his return from a gambling suspension.

It was Momota’s first victory over Chen in their five meetings.

The Japanese shuttler entered the first set interval with a 11-8 lead. Chen then clawed back to restore his lead at 14-12, before Momota reeled off 5 consecutive points and went on to claim the first set 21-17.

Kento Momota wins men's singles title at 2018 Badminton Asia Championships. (photo: AFP)
Kento Momota wins men’s singles title at 2018 Badminton Asia Championships. (photo: AFP)

Momota, a compact left-hander, had to fight tooth and nail with Chen early in the second set to establish a narrow lead at 14-13. Momota then blew past Chen by reeling off seven straight points to win the title.

After he scored his match point, the 23-year-old pumped his fist and kissed the Japanese flag on his jersey, signifying his return to the highest level of badminton competition after being caught gambling at an illegal casino in 2016, and was suspended for a year until May of 2017.

“When I was leading by 14-12 in the first set, Momota suddenly increase his tempo, which caught me off guard and I ended up losing several points in a row,” said Chen after the match.

In addition to Momota’s victory, the Japanese camp also picked up another title through Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota in the women’s doubles event. Fukushima/Hirota defeated compatriots Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi 21-18, 18-21, 21-15 for the women’s doubles crown.

Taiwan’s defending champion Tai Tzu Ying became the first women’s singles player to be able to defend the Asia Championships title in 10 years when she survived a spirited challenge from home shuttler Chen Yufei to beat the Chinese player for the eighth time with 21-19, 22-20.

“I made too many mistakes in the beginning of the game. So, I was telling myself to ‘calm down’,” said the 24-year-old Tai.

Meanwhile, China didn’t leave the tournament empty handed. Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping romped to their first Asian title by beating Indonesian top seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir 21-17, 21-17 in the mixed doubles final, while No. 1 seeds Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen also gave the home fans something to cheer about when they won the men’s doubles 11-21, 21-10, 21-13 against Japan’s No. 3 seeds Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda.

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