KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - World No. 1 Kento Momota is through to the Malaysia Masters final after defeating homegrown hopeful Lee Zii Jia 21-10, 21-19 on Saturday (Jan 11).
Momota will face Denmark's Viktor Axelsen, who was equally impressive in his 21-14, 21-18 win over Hong Kong's Angus Ng Kah Long.
"It is a good start for the new year," the Japanese star told reporters after the match.
"My opponent played well with a home ground advantage."
Lee conceded Momota's superior form and even claimed the reigning world champion was only playing at half capacity in the 43-minute win.
"I noticed he wasn't as serious about the match. He was clearly just out to enjoy himself," Lee said.
But Momota seemed clinical from start to finish, using deceptive shots and ferocious speed to keep the Malaysian flat-footed.
Momota is widely expected to clinch gold at home in July's Tokyo Olympics. He missed out on the Rio Olympics four years ago due to a gambling suspension.
The 25-year-old had a stellar 2019 with 11 titles, the most ever by a male player in a badminton season.
Axelsen said he was delighted to make his first final in nearly a year.
Momota has beaten the fifth-ranked Dane in their last 12 encounters.