Badminton: 'Weak-spirited' Momota limps out at home world c'ships against Prannoy, who meets Sen next

Kento Momota, once badminton's undisputed king, looked a shadow of the player who won a record 11 titles in 2019. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese badminton star Kento Momota blamed his fear of failure for a "weak-spirited" second-round exit from the world championships on Wednesday (Aug 24) after losing 21-17, 21-16 to India's H.S. Prannoy.

The second seed, whose career has been in free fall since a car crash in Malaysia more than two years ago left him badly hurt and the driver dead, limped out after another meek performance in front of a stunned crowd in Tokyo.

Momota, once the sport's undisputed king, looked a shadow of the player who won a record 11 titles in 2019, and he pulled no punches when analysing his own performance after the match.

"I was so scared of making mistakes that I shrunk within myself a little and I think that was why I lost," the crestfallen 27-year-old told reporters.

"I realised that midway through the match, but I couldn't do anything to fix it. I was weak-spirited and that's so frustrating."

Momota dumped shot after shot into the net and was powerless to stop world No. 18 Prannoy from taking control early in the match.

He vowed to try to get back to his former position at badminton's summit but he said he would need some time to get over this latest disappointment.

"I think I used to win titles too easily," he said.

"It became a matter of course that I would win them, but it's difficult and some players never win even one.

"I don't think at all that I'm not capable of winning titles," he added.

Prannoy will play in the next round against his Indian compatriot Lakshya Sen, who advanced with a 21-17, 21-10 win over Spain's Luis Enrique Penalver.

"I can't really be happy about what I've done because you don't have time for that," Prannoy said.

"You have to get ready for what's to come next tomorrow and hopefully keep getting better."

Malaysian fifth seed Lee Zii Jia also booked his place in the next round with a comfortable 21-9, 21-12 win over Portugal's Bernardo Atilano.

Lee is aiming to become the first Malaysian to win a world badminton title (Lee Chong Wei has three silvers and a bronze) and he said he was "feeling good" after making short work of Atilano.

"I think the real challenge will be tomorrow, and my opponent will be tougher than today," said the 24-year-old.

"It's a big challenge for me - I want to be the first to win the world championships from Malaysia. I think everyone has a big chance to win so we will see."

Lee Zii Jia is aiming to become the first Malaysian to win a world badminton title. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Defending champion Loh Kean Yew had to fend off a furious second-game fightback from Guatemala's Olympic semi-finalist Kevin Cordon before closing out their contest 21-12, 11-21, 21-12.

The Singaporean No. 8 seed played down the pressure of arriving in Tokyo as the reigning champion and said he intended to "treat it like any other tournament".

"I'm definitely happy on the winning side, always," he said.

Loh Kean Yew played down the pressure of arriving in Tokyo as the reigning champion. PHOTO: AFP

India's Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Kidambi Srikanth was stunned 21-9, 21-17 by China's unseeded Zhao Junpeng.

No. 12 seed Srikanth, the silver medallist at last year's world championships and part of India's Thomas Cup-winning team in May, said he "could have maybe played better".

"He just played well when it really mattered," said the former world No. 1.

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