KUALA LUMPUR • At the moment, Malaysia may hold bad memories for badminton world No. 1 Kento Momota, but he could return to the country sooner rather than later.
The Japanese was among four hurt in a road accident that killed his driver on Monday morning, when the van he was in crashed into the back of a lorry as they were en route to catch a flight home.
Momota, who suffered bruises and cuts as well as a reported "slight nasal bone fracture", is expected to be out for two months, with his return pencilled in for the All England Open from March 11.
After that, the 25-year-old might take a crack at a first Malaysia Open title, judging by his smile in response to the wish of Badminton Association of Malaysia president Norza Zakaria.
Norza was at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to send Momota off on Wednesday and later said: "Before parting ways, I told him again we're sad and sorry about what happened.
"I told him we're hoping to see him again for the Malaysia Open."
The entry deadline is on Feb 18 so it will not be a long wait to know if Momota will compete in the March 31-April 5 event.
While he must now dial back his Olympic preparations and recuperate, Indonesia's Hendrawan still feels the man who won a record 11 titles last year is the one to beat in Tokyo.
"You can sense the gold is already his," said the former world champion.
"Very few players come anywhere close to him. The only person who can beat him is himself."
ASIA NEWS NETWORK/THE STAR