Badminton world championships: Kento Momota becomes first Japanese man to claim crown as Carolina Marin also salutes
The explosive 23-year-old convincingly defeats China’s Shi Yuqi, while the Spaniard wins willing women’s decider
Kento Momota became the first Japanese man to win the badminton world championships on Sunday, putting behind him a gambling scandal that threatened to ruin his career.
The explosive 23-year-old convincingly defeated China’s highly promising Shi Yuqi 21-11, 21-13 in Nanjing.
Momota’s nascent career descended into controversy in 2016 when Japanese badminton chiefs suspended him for more than a year for visiting an illegal casino, denying him a place at the Rio Olympics.
Momota, number two in the world at the time, has been working his way back to the top ever since and the world-ranked seven is currently in the form of his life. But in Shi he faced another of badminton’s rising stars.
The brilliantly agile 22-year-old defeated legend Lin Dan and Olympic champion Chen Long on the way to the final to confirm his new-found status as China’s best player.
Shi and Momota had only played each other once before, Momota having the edge that time – and he was to enjoy it once more. Shi, who was playing in front of his home-province crowd, appeared nervous early on.
He made a series of errors as the favourite Momota clinched the first game in 21 minutes, and the Japanese star’s superiority was even more apparent in the second.
When the end came it was an anticlimax, with the shuttlecock hitting the top of the net before falling in Momota’s favour. The Japanese apologised to his opponent.
Shi has a long way to go to emulate his more seasoned compatriots, but defeating Chen for just the second time in the semi-finals was evidence of a changing of the guard in Chinese men’s badminton.
Shi captured the All England Open crown earlier this year after beating Lin “Super Dan” in the final.
Meanwhile, Spaniard Carolina Marin claimed a slice of history by becoming the first woman to win three badminton world titles with an emphatic victory over P.V. Sindhu of India.
The aggressive Marin is now the reigning world and Olympic champion thanks to an imperious 21-19, 21-10 win.
The all-action 25-year-old adds the 2018 crown to her titles in 2014 and 2015, and the Olympic gold she won from the unlucky Sindhu at Rio 2016.
It was more disappointment for Sindhu, who has suffered a string of near misses in recent times.
There was nothing between the pair coming into the final in Nanjing – in their 12 previous encounters they had won six each.
And so it was in the first game too, as the rivals went toe-to-toe, the more attacking Marin – seeded seventh – bellowing after each winning point.
Third seed Sindhu, 23, well known for her never-say-die spirit, initially edged ahead before Marin dragged her back to 16-16.
Sindhu hit into the net to allow Marin to capture the first game in 27 minutes and she took that momentum into the second to make history.
As well as disappointment at Rio 2016, Sindhu was beaten in last year’s world championships final by Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and had to settle for silver at this year’s Commonwealth Games too.