KUALA LUMPUR – Japanese world No. 2 Kento Momota has been struggling to rediscover his previous form following an accident after his 2020 Malaysia Masters title victory.

Back in Kuala Lumpur again, he reached his first final this year with a comfortable 21-11, 21-12 win over Thai SEA Games champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn at the Malaysia Open on Saturday (July 2).

Despite the convincing win at the Axiata Arena, Momota, 27, said he had no confidence going into the semi-final, probably because he had suffered four first-round exits this year.

He said: “I just tried not to make a lot of mistakes and get the shuttle across. I’m so happy to reach the final because I’ve been through a lot of difficult times. For (the final), I just want to try my best for the people who have been supporting me.”

In another case of deja vu, Momota will take on world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the final.

After beating the Dane in the 2020 Malaysia Masters final, Momota was on the way to the airport when the van he was in was involved in an accident that killed the driver. Momota said his “spirit was almost broken” as he suffered double vision and needed surgery on a bone near his eye that left him fearing his career was over.

Axelsen, who is seeking his first Malaysia Open title and fifth title this year, said his former top-ranked rival is a “fantastic player” and he’s “so happy to see him back playing well”.

“I hope we can have a great match tomorrow,” added the Dane, who was made to work for his 21-15, 20-22, 21-11 win over Indonesian Jonatan Christie in the other semi-final. After outplaying Christie to win the first game and leading 16-12 in the second, he allowed him to launch a comeback.

But Axelsen soon regained control to clinch the decider. He celebrated by lightly massaging his thighs and stretching on the floor.

When asked about his celebration, the 28-year-old said he had no particular reason for it.

He quipped: “I was just showing there’s still a bit of energy back in the tank, like a spring chicken. A bit older today but still young.

“I want to win (this) really badly, it would be a great title for me to win but now I have to focus on recovery and be happy with today’s win.”

Last modified: July 3, 2022