Tokyo: Even he is the current World No. 1 men’s singles player and won a record-breaking 11 titles in 2019, it’s still possible to surprise Kento Momota of Japan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many elementary and high school badminton tournaments in Japan were canceled, and many junior badminton players have no place to practice. Therefore, Daihatsu has created a “one-day badminton dream match” exhibition to allow few selected junior players from Japan to play against players from Japan’s national team, including Kento Momota, Nozomi Okuhara, Akane Yamaguchi, and Yuta Watanabe.
One of the highlights of the program was the exhibition match between Momota and 16-year-old Yudai Okimoto. The match was using different badminton rules and regulations. It’s an 11 points scoring format, and Okimoto received an automatic 5-0 head start over Momota. Momota also has to hit the shuttlecock beyond the short service line on Okimoto’s side. Momota would lose a point if the shuttlecock from him landed before the short service line.
Momota managed to come from 0-5 to reach a match point at 10-9. However, Okimoto tied the score at 10-10 after Momota’s return landed before the short service line area. Everyone was shocked when Okimoto scored the winning point as Momota hit the shuttlecock into the net.
Kento Momota vs. Yudai Okimoto
The 26-year-old Momota then executed a powerful smash to win the badminton speed competition with 377km/h. He then partnered with Akane Yamaguchi to defeat Nozomi Okuhara and Yuta Watanabe 11-10 in a mixed doubles exhibition match.
Kento Momota won the smashing competition
Kento Momota/Akane Yamaguchi vs. Yuta Watanabe/Nozomi Okuhara in a mixed doubles exhibition match
“The junior players were stronger than I expected. I don’t think I was able to play like this when I was young,” said Momota.
“It was a lot of fun, but the students were so strong that I was under a lot of pressure (laughs). I’m looking forward to talking with everyone and interacting with each other at real tournaments in the future,” said Okuhara.