Badminton: World champion Kento Momota makes electric start to World Tour Finals

Japan's Kento Momota reacts during his men's singles first round match against Sameer Verma of India at the 2018 BWF World Tour Finals of badminton in Guangzhou, China, on Dec 12, 2018.
Japan's Kento Momota reacts during his men's singles first round match against Sameer Verma of India at the 2018 BWF World Tour Finals of badminton in Guangzhou, China, on Dec 12, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (AFP) - World badminton champion Kento Momota made a lightning start at the BWF World Tour Finals in China on Wednesday (Dec 12), rampaging past India's overwhelmed Sameer Verma in just 36 minutes.

The Japanese star is looking to put the seal on a breakthrough year in which he has risen to No. 1 in the rankings and become world champion for the first time.

It is all a far cry from 2016, when Momota was expelled from Japan's team for the Rio Olympics and banned for more than a year for visiting an illegal casino.

The 24-year-old had too much quality and power for Verma - also 24 and ranked 14th in the world - thrashing him 21-18, 21-6 in Group B to confirm his status as the man to beat in Guangzhou.

Also untroubled in her opener was the women's No. 1, Tai Tzu-ying from Chinese Taipei, who defeated Zhang Beiwen of the United States 21-15, 21-17 in 30 minutes. The other Group A match saw India's Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu upsetting Japan's world No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi 24-22, 21-15.