SHANGHAI • Kento Momota declared "a new generation of players is taking over" after the Japanese world No. 1 roared back to beat China's Shi Yuqi and retain his Badminton Asia Championships title in Wuhan, China, on Sunday.
On a red-letter day for Japan, Akane Yamaguchi became the first Japanese to win the women's crown with an emphatic victory over home favourite He Bingjiao.
With China's Lin Dan, 35, in the twilight of his career and his long-time Malaysian rival Lee Chong Wei, 36, 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 the 24-year-old, who is tipped to be the favourite for gold at the 2020 Tokyo 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 won the next two games 21-18, 21-8.
His compatriot Yamaguchi, a silver medallist two years ago, eased to a 21-19, 21-9 victory against China's fifth-seeded He.
"Becoming the first Asian women's singles champion from Japan is not that important to me," said Yamaguchi, 21, 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, whom Yamaguchi beat in the semi-finals, and Cai Yanyan.
In the men's doubles, Japanese pair Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe took gold, beating Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia 21-18, 21-3.
This gave Japan three of the five titles with China claiming the women's doubles and mixed doubles. Japan have won at least one gold each year since coming up empty-handed in 2015.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA