Momota's win fulfils dream

Japan's Kento Momota rushing to the net to tap in the winning shot over Denmark's Viktor Axelsen in the All England Open final on Sunday in Birmingham.
Japan's Kento Momota rushing to the net to tap in the winning shot over Denmark's Viktor Axelsen in the All England Open final on Sunday in Birmingham.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

World No. 1 is 1st Japanese to win All England and hopes success will inspire countrymen

LONDON • Kento Momota may be the world and Asian champion, and the top-ranked badminton player, but capturing the All England Open title represented the "fulfilment of his childhood dream".

After holding his nerve to beat Denmark's Viktor Axelsen 21-11, 15-21, 21-15 on Sunday to become the first Japanese man to lift the sport's oldest trophy, Momota was hopeful his success would spur on fellow shuttlers in his country.

He said: "I hope this win will help raise the badminton level in Japan. I'm going to keep improving myself so that everybody can be helped along with me.

"Having won this, it is a really big moment in my life and gives me a lot of confidence.

"The second game, I played defensively against some very powerful shots from Viktor but, in the final game, I knew I couldn't carry on like that.

"So I didn't play particular tactics, I just gave all I had and did my best."

Given the form he is in, Momota will be the hot favourite at the April 9-14 Singapore Open, with the 24-year-old looking to land his second title after winning in 2015.

Chen Yufei also revelled in "the most important victory" of her career after clinching her first All England Open title.

She upset top seed and twice defending champion Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei 21-17, 21-17 to record her first victory over her opponent following 11 previous defeats.

Tai, 24, had been seeking a historic hat-trick of titles but could not prevent the women's singles title from returning to Chinese hands for the first time in five years.

Chen, 21, later admitted that she "did not expect to win the championship title in straight games" as the world No. 1 had dropped only one set en route to the final.

She added: "I am very, very excited. I need to thank everybody in the women's team of China. Without the teamwork, this title is never possible. When I express my joy, I feel like I lose my physical composure, that's why I fell to the ground.

"I am more mature both mentally and physically compared to last year. I kept my pace on court today, that's probably the reason why I won."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Momota's win fulfils dream'. Print Edition | Subscribe