SHANGHAI (AFP) - Kento Momota declared that "a new generation of players is taking over" after the world number one roared back to beat Shi Yuqi and retain his Badminton Asia Championships title on Sunday (April 28).
On a red-letter day for Japan in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Akane Yamaguchi became the first Japanese to win the women's crown with an emphatic victory over home player He Bingjiao.
In a repeat match of last year's World Championships final, the 24-year-old Momota recovered from a slow start against Shi, who is second in the rankings behind the Japanese.
With Lin Dan in the twilight of his career aged 35 and his long-time rival Lee Chong Wei having treatment for nose cancer, Momota feels there has been a changing of the guard.
"A new generation of players is taking over and I am pleased to be part of it," said Momota, who will be favourite for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"Retaining my title in Wuhan is mission accomplished." Momota, who defeated Shi to win the world title last summer, conceded the opening game 21-12 to the Chinese, who at 23 is very much part of the new wave himself.
The Japanese top seed then belatedly found his rhythm and sealed the second game 21-18 with a delicious smash.
The momentum was with Momota and he clinched the title in 69 minutes by easily winning the third game 21-8 against a badly deflated Shi.
There was more joy for Japan at the home of their arch rivals as Yamaguchi, a silver medallist two years ago, eased to victory against China's fifth-seeded He 21-19, 21-9.
The 21-year-old Yamaguchi, the third seed, raced out of the blocks in both games against her stunned opponent, who is a year older.
Yamaguchi went 12-2 up in the first game and was ahead 11-1 in the second on the way to the title in just 42 one-sided minutes.
"Becoming the first Asian women's singles champion from Japan is not that important to me," said Yamaguchi with a hint of mischief.
"Instead, I was proud to be on the top of the podium surrounded by three Chinese opponents," she added, referring to He and bronze medallists Chen Yufei and Cai Yanyan.
Momota and the others will now have their eyes on next summer's Tokyo Games with the 12-month qualification period starting on Monday.