Momota wins first tournament on return from ban

Kento Momota not only returned to the badminton court for his first domestic tournament after his ban for gambling, he also returned to winning ways as he grabbed the title […]

not only returned to the badminton court for his first domestic tournament after his ban for gambling, he also returned to winning ways as he grabbed the title ahead of world #53 Takuma Ueda.

Story and photos by Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Saitama

The Japanese Ranking Circuit tournaments are played by players ranked in the top 32 in Japan and saw a returning Momota reach the final to face current A player Takuma Ueda.

In the first game, Momota’s movement was much faster than Ueda expected, and the #2 seed was powerless to do anything but give away the first game easily.

At the change of ends, Ueda picked up his speed and played a much more offensive game. Momota tried to counter, but Ueda’s smashes and net shots were better, forcing the deciding rubber.

An emotional finish

In a see-saw third game, neither player gave an inch in the long rallies, with loud yells and tightly clenched fists celebrating each point. With Ueda leading at 18-16, an easy mistake saw him put the shuttle out the back, starting a run of four consecutive points for Momota.

When finally, Momota took the deciding game 21-19, he sank weakly to the floor without moving, his tears showing clearly how moved the young player was by the emotions built up over his year-long ban.

In the press conference after the match, Momota said, “I was very nervous during the tournament. In the final, I felt Ueda was better than me about tactics and shot control but I couldn’t give up because people around me supported a lot to me during my suffering time and I wanted to show my win to them as appreciation feeling.”

He continued, “When I won, many memories came to my head at that moment. The memories were like the voices by my co-workers, team-mates and family cheering me, saying things like ‘Do your best!’ and ‘We are behind you!’ I really appreciated all those around me.”

“I don’t care about the result now. I’m just very happy to join in a competition. Now I just want to be the right person on and off court. So I focus on being a good player with a good attitude and respect for opponents, and on playing one rally at a time, always doing my best. I hope I can be a good person. Someday, I want to be a player who people cheer for.”

A return to the National fold?

After Momota’s interview, national head coach Park Joo-Bong spoke to the press conference about the young player’s immediate future.

“I thought Momota was physically okay, at the same level as before. He looked nervous so his skills in the match were not perfect. Around 1 year ago, he was highly ranked in the world with great skills. Especially his net skill was great before as top player, but I thought Ueda was better [in that area] than him today.”

With regards to Momota’s future, he continued, “This win is only one of the qualifications for the national team. The NBA [Nippon Badminton Association] has rules for picking the national team members by the results of the All Japan and other tournaments like this. After this tournament, we will have a meeting with NBA staff and coaches.”

“We can’t say anything now about the date of his return to the national team. As you all know, he is still young and I hope Momota becomes a strong player like before, and makes his badminton life better as a top player like Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei.”

NBA has given Momota special treatment

In Japan, the NBA has previously had specific rules for international tournament participation. Players have to have attended the All Japan tournament to play in top-level international tournaments the following year.

Whilst Momota was not eligible to play the All Japan last year, the NBA allowed Momota entry into the Canada and US Open tournaments in July. Momota’s name was removed from the BWF ranking list last spring, and currently he holds no points so he will have to start from scratch at the Canadian tournament, and is effectively his first international tournament in the eyes of the BWF ranking system.

Miyuki Komiya

About Miyuki Komiya

Miyuki Komiya is Badzine's correspondent in Japan. She joined the Badzine team in 2008 to provide coverage of the Japanese badminton scene. She has played badminton for more than 30 years and has been a witness to the modern history of Japanese badminton, both watching players become stronger on court and hearing the players comment on their increasing success over the years. Contact her at: miyuki @