• AFP-Jiji

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World champion Kento Momota beat Anders Antonsen in the Indonesia Masters final on Sunday, his first win at an international tournament since being badly injured in a car accident last year.

Momota thumped the Danish third seed 21-17, 21-11 on the resort island of Bali, where the tournament was held as the first of three back-to-back competitions culminating in the season-ending World Tour Finals.

The final was close in the first round, but the Japanese ace managed to build a strong defense as Antonsen repeatedly made unforced errors.

The world’s best badminton player, with a record 11 titles in 2019, Momota was almost forced to retire after a car crash in January last year left him with career-threatening injuries.

He fractured his eye socket in the accident, which killed the driver of the car he was in.

When he returned for his Olympic debut in Tokyo this year, he crashed out in the group stage, blaming his own “weakness”.

Momota had a relatively easy draw in Bali, after Olympic gold medalist Viktor Axelsen was knocked out in the round of 16 on Thursday. And China is not sending any players to any of the Bali tournaments, meaning Olympic silver medalist Chen Long is absent.

Apart from Momota’s win, the Japan team bagged two other trophies in the Sunday finals.

Kento Momota celebrates on the winner's podium after grabbing victory in the men's singles final badminton match at the Indonesia Masters in Bali on Sunday. | BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF INDONESIA / VIA AFP-JIJI
Kento Momota celebrates on the winner’s podium after grabbing victory in the men’s singles final badminton match at the Indonesia Masters in Bali on Sunday. | BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF INDONESIA / VIA AFP-JIJI

In the men’s doubles, Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi stunned home favorites — and top-ranked duo — Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, 21-11, 17-21, 21-19.

“We are glad to have defeated world’s number-one players,” said Hoki. “It makes us confident.”

Kobayashi added, “We lost to them 10 times but we learned from our and their mistakes, and practiced the lessons in today’s match.”

Meanwhile, women’s pair Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida beat South Korea’s unseeded couple Jeong Na-eun and Kim Hye-jeong 21-9, 21-11.

Third-ranked women’s player Akane Yamaguchi also made the finals, but lost to South Korea’s top seed An Seyoung 21-17, 21-19.

In the mixed doubles, Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai thrashed Hong Kong’s Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet 21-11, 21-12.

Next up in Bali is the Indonesia Open, which takes place from Tuesday to Sunday. The season-ending BWF Tour finals run from Dec. 1 to 5.

Badminton World Tour events in Indonesia are usually played in the capital, Jakarta, but organizers opted for Bali, which has been badly affected by the loss of visitors during the pandemic. The tournaments are held without fans and in a virus-secure bubble because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some disappointed fans in badminton-mad Indonesia have sent gifts such as flowers and dolls to the bio-secure hotel.

“Normally, I could see them playing in Jakarta but since it’s now far away in Bali, I sent them flowers to show my support,” said fan Deti Mega, who with her friend sent flowers to Axelsen and the Gideon-Sukamuljo duo.

“I’m happy because my gifts reached them as they posted the flowers and greeting cards on their social media,” she said, quoted by the Indonesian Badminton Association.

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