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Showboating Momota thrills home fans at badminton worlds

Showboating Momota thrills home fans at badminton worlds

TOKYO: Showboating Japanese badminton star Kento Momota(pix) promised to cool down after being fired up by an adoring home crowd in his first-round win at the world championships in Tokyo on Monday.

Second-seeded Momota’s career has been in free fall since a car crash more than two years ago which left him badly hurt, but he looked back on top form during a 21-16, 21-14 win over Mexico’s Lino Munoz.

Momota rushed out to an early lead and seemed to be enjoying the adulation of the Tokyo crowd, until world number 82 Munoz started to come back into the match.

Momota said he had wanted to show the crowd what he could do “a little too much” and promised to “calm down” in his next match.

“I scored a point and I heard a little girl behind me shout out ‘brilliant,‘” said a sheepish Momota after the match.

“I heard that and thought I wanted to do it again, but then I ended up giving away the next point. Next time I’ll try and keep my cool.”

Momota advanced to the next round along with top-ranked Dane Viktor Axelsen, but third-seeded Anders Antonsen crashed out at the first hurdle.

The 2019 world silver medallist fell behind early and never managed to get a foothold in a 21-15, 21-19 loss to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.

The 25-year-old Antonsen was playing his first competitive match in three months after pulling an abdominal muscle and said it “felt a bit strange just to suddenly be on court again”.

“I felt like I played better and better and it was a shame that I didn’t make the comeback in the second game, I was so close,“ said Antonsen, who had fended off four match points.

“It’s my first match in a long time so I just need to get back to competition. Today was the beginning.”

Axelsen lived up to his billing as the world’s number one with a straightforward 21-16, 21-12 win over Malaysia’s Daren Liew.

Axelsen was pleased to safely negotiate his way past the world number 29.

“Every first round is always tricky. Daren is an experienced opponent, he’s a really good player when he plays well,“ said Axelsen.

“I really had to step up in big parts of the game today and I’m really happy about how I managed to deal with everything.”

China’s Shi Yuqi returned to action for the first time in 10 months after serving a ban and beat Azerbaijan’s Ade Resky Dwicahyo 22-20, 21-10.

Shi, a world finalist in 2018, retired during a 2021 match against Momota and was banned by the Chinese Badminton Association for making “inappropriate comments” about his withdrawal.

He said he “felt a bit nervous” as he entered the court to face Dwicahyo but “felt good to be playing again” once he had settled into the match.

“It definitely feels a lot different,“ said the 26-year-old.

“When you’re playing in training it’s a lot different from playing tournaments.”

Defending champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore also advanced with a 21-12, 21-12 win over Spain’s Pablo Abian.-AFP

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