Kento Momota Joins Japan’s Thomas Cup Team

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Kento Momota is a strong addition to Japan's Thomas Cup team. (photo: Shi Tang/Getty Images)
Kento Momota is a strong addition to Japan's Thomas Cup team. (photo: Shi Tang/Getty Images)

Tokyo: On March 30th 2024, the Japanese Badminton Association had officially released their rosters for both the men’s and women’s teams for the Thomas and Uber Cup. The roster, headlined by an aging men’s group with Kento Momota and a young star on the women’s side with Miyazaki Tomoka, has sparked a decent bit of conversation over the choices made for the roster, specifically with the men’s side.

The Japanese team had sent four men’s singles players: Kenta Nishimoto (World No. 12), Koki Watanabe (World No. 22), Kodai Naraoka (World No. 6), and last but not least Kento Momota (World No. 52). The seemingly large gap between the 3rd and 4th best players on this team was a large topic for discussion, considering that the younger and more in shape Kanta Tsuneyama (World No. 20) was left out of the roster.

The decision to select Momota over Tsuneyama is a controversial one, and although Momota is still the face of Japanese Badminton being the former World No.1, Tsuneyama in recent years has shot up the rankings and even bested Momota at the French Open in 2021 and at the Malaysian Masters in 2022, with the last time Momota beating Tsuneyama taking place in 2019 prior to his devastating injury.

Although Momota’s historic prowess cannot be denied, being an unbelievable player with two World Championship titles, the car crash that occurred in 2019 has undoubtedly altered the course of his career, and the Japanese Badminton Association decision for the 2024 Thomas Cup selection was a very controversial one.

Yet, Momota’s performance has still been getting better over recent years as well, winning the 2023 Korea Masters on Nov 12, 2023. And the following week, at the Kumamoto Masters Japan 2023, Momota defeated Loh Kean Yew in 3 sets and in 85 minutes, followed by a 101-minute battle with Rasmus Gemke in the second round. Although he lost to Shi Yuqi in the quarter-final of the Kumamoto Masters Japan 2023, the new showcase of stamina could be an indication of Momota’s return to his prime, so perhaps the Japanese Badminton Association has realized something we have not.

However, for the women’s side of things, they’re headlined by the newer selections of 17-year-old and World No. 25 Miyazaki Tomoka and Women’s Doubles World No. 10 pair of Miyaura Rema and Sakuramoto Ayako. With Miyazaki Tomoka being one of the favorites to win the BWF World Junior Championships and ranking so high, they pose as a strong competitor to win the Uber Cup this year, and seeing as she’s only been getting better it makes sense to test her skills out at this year’s Uber Cup.

At the end of the day, no matter the decisions made by the Japanese Badminton Association, it provides a chance for members of both teams to prove themselves to the world. With an aging Kento Momota here to show why he was chosen for this year and an aspiring Miyazaki Tomoka to prove her worth on the big stages, there’s a possibility that this Japanese team will shock the badminton world.

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