SINGAPORE — They were up-and-coming shuttlers when they won their first Singapore Badminton Open. Returning as world No. 1s in this year’s edition, Kento Momota and Tai Tzu-ying displayed the full range of their supreme talents in winning the singles competitions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sunday (14 April).
Yet, the manner in which they won their respective titles could not be more different.
While women’s world No. 1 Tai was dominant against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, men’s world No. 1 Momota struggled mightily against “Giant Killer” Anthony Sinisuka Ginting before holding his nerve to stage a dramatic comeback.
Out of sorts, but hung on to recover
Ginting had already taken the scalp of reigning Olympic champion Chen Long and defending Open champion Chou Tien-chen during his run to the men’s singles final. And the Indonesian world No. 9 looked odds on to add his biggest scalp as he thoroughly dominated over Momota early on.
The Japanese looked out of sorts, offering no answer to Ginting’s powerful smashes, and quickly lost the first game 10-21. When the 22-year-old Indonesia shot to a 16-12 lead in the second game, most of the 4,962-strong crowd thought they would be witnessing a huge upset.
Yet Momota hung on, stepping up his defence and forcing Ginting to take increasingly tougher shots. The 12-16 deficit suddenly turned into an 18-17 advantage for the Japanese, and the 24-year-old pumped his fists when he took the second game 21-19.
Undeterred, Ginting pressed on for a 12-8 lead in the third game, but Momota finally found his offensive rhythm. Rattling off nine straight points as he capitalised on an error-strewn Ginting, Momota gave a big roar after clinching his second Singapore Open title by winning the third game 21-13.
The Japanese, who also won in 2015, told Yahoo News Singapore, “Today I thought it was going to be a losing match. Ginting had better quality than me, but maybe he was tired, that’s why I had the opportunity to turn this around.
“I won my first title in Singapore, and from then on, my attitude towards winning has changed. Singapore is really something special to me.”
A dejected Ginting lamented about lost chances even as he congratulated Momota on his victory. He added, “I was controlling well in the first game. In the second game, I was leading and the points were tight. I needed to attack more, but Momota already anticipated my play and he
managed to get points from me from then on.”
Exceptional poise and sublime shot-making
The women’s singles final was a more straightforward affair, as Tai displayed exceptional poise amid her sublime shot-making to defeat world No. 3 Okuhara 21-19, 21-15 and win her second Singapore Open title in three years.
The Taiwanese’s idiosyncratic style, varied and deceptive, gave Okuhara little chance to counter with her aggressive smashes. Yet, it seems that she is far better at expressing herself on the court than during media interviews.
“I just like running around on the court, and trying to hit the ball to every corner,” the 24-year-old said in typical understated fashion, after revealing that she doesn’t watch videos of herself and of her opponents.
When asked how she managed to keep so calm at key moments of the match, she said with a sheepish smile, “I don’t know, I never get nervous. I guess my nerve fibres are a bit better.”
Okuhara was gracious in defeat, saying in halting English, “Tai is fast and skilful, and she makes me think a lot on how to defend her. She is very tricky to play against. I also made too many mistakes at the end of each game.”
Doubles joy for Japan and Thailand
The men’s doubles final was a tight affair between third seeds Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda of Japan and defending champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia. After 51 minutes, it was the Japanese duo who emerged triumphant, winning 21-13, 19-21, 21-17.
Another third-seeded Japanese duo, Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, clinched the women’s doubles gold with a 21-17, 22-20 win over South Korea’s Kim Hye Jeong and Kong Hee Yong.
In the mixed doubles final, the Thai duo of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, ran out easy 21-14, 21-6 winners over the Malaysian pair of Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing.
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