Kento Momota to play in Singapore Open

Men's singles world champion Kento Momota of Japan has emerged stronger from his one-year ban for visiting an illegal casino. The world No. 1 is among the favourites to win the Singapore Open in April but faces strong competition from current and for
Men's singles world champion Kento Momota of Japan has emerged stronger from his one-year ban for visiting an illegal casino. The world No. 1 is among the favourites to win the Singapore Open in April but faces strong competition from current and former Olympic champions Chen Long and Lin Dan.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Men's world No. 1 among seven reigning world champions to play in April 9-14 event

Seven of the eight reigning world champions will feature at the Singapore Open, as 2018 Badminton World Federation World Championships men's singles champion and world No. 1 Kento Momota becomes the latest superstar to confirm his participation for the April 9-14 event.

He will face strong competition at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with Olympic gold medallists Lin Dan and Chen Long also in the mix.

The 24-year-old made a remarkable comeback in 2017 and became the first Japanese man to top the world rankings, despite being suspended for a year by the Nippon Badminton Association for visiting an illegal casino.

The 2015 Singapore Open men's singles champion told news website Firstpost: "I was immature and foolish. I was told by the Nippon Badminton Association secretary-general, Kinji Zeniya, that this sort of frequent gambling was punishable by law in Japan, with a prison sentence of up to three years.

"In view of my services to Japanese badminton, they were willing to refrain from pressing charges if I accepted a one-year ban from international badminton.

"I readily accepted the compromise solution, and felt I richly deserved it.

"That one year in the wilderness was the darkest period of my life, and I really missed the competition. But I resolved to keep practising and working out to stay fit; vowed that I would come back even stronger than before."

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  • Reigning world champions in four events slated to compete in S'pore:

    • Men's singles (Momota, Japan)

    • Men's doubles (Li-Liu, China)

    • Women's doubles (Matsumoto-Nagahara, Jpn)

    • Mixed doubles (Zheng-Huang, Chn)

Momota is part of a 29-strong Japanese contingent heading to Singapore. This includes women's doubles world champions Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara.

Earlier on, China had already announced their 35-player line-up, which includes men's doubles world champions Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, and mixed doubles world champions Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.

The only reigning world champion who will not be here is Spain's women's singles winner Carolina Marin, who ruptured her right anterior cruciate ligament earlier this year.

The Singapore Open's star-studded field will also see last year's winners returning to defend their titles.

These include men's and women's singles champions - Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien-chen and Japan's Sayaka Takahashi respectively - as well as Japan's women's doubles pairing Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata, and Malaysia's mixed doubles duo Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai.

Asian Games women's singles champion Tai Tzu-ying (Chinese Taipei) and Olympic women's singles silver medallist P.V. Sindhu (India) will also compete here.

Singapore Open 2019 organising committee spokesman Michael Foo said: "This year's line-up is one that badminton fans will not want to miss. From defending champs to world champs, it has all the makings of an action-packed week.

"Fans have slightly more than a week left to purchase their tickets at early-bird rates, so definitely don't let this opportunity slip."

• Tickets are available via Sports Hub Tix and ApacTix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline 'Momota to play in Singapore Open'. Print Edition | Subscribe