Japan’s Kento Momota was as soon as badminton’s undisputed king however his profession has gone into free fall ever since a automobile crash greater than two years in the past which left him badly harm.
There at the moment are extreme doubts that the 27-year-old former two-times world champion — who was embroiled in a playing scandal earlier in his profession — will ever attain the highest once more.
Momota’s world was turned the other way up in January 2020 when the automobile taking him to Kuala Lumpur airport crashed hours after he gained the Malaysia Masters, killing the driving force and leaving the participant with a fractured eye socket.
He was out of motion for a 12 months and is now a shadow of his former self — the left-handed ace flopped on the Tokyo Olympics and has misplaced within the first spherical of 4 of the 5 singles tournaments he has entered this 12 months.
“His defence continues to be a bit doubtful, his web recreation isn’t as sturdy because it was once after which in fact his self-confidence should have taken a giant, large hit,” former Danish nationwide staff coach Steen Schleicher Pedersen instructed AFP.
“Possibly even his life values, after being in a crash like that the place the driving force died. Possibly he doesn’t have that starvation any extra, perhaps he doesn’t care, perhaps it’s modified him,” added Pedersen, now a badminton commentator.
Pedersen stated it appeared like Momota’s imaginative and prescient was affecting his play final 12 months, particularly his defence.
Momota gained a record-breaking 11 titles in 2019, shedding simply six of the 73 matches he performed and looking out each inch a legend within the making.
Then got here the crash which left him with double imaginative and prescient and required surgical procedure on a bone close to his eye.
Dwelling hope Momota flamed out within the first spherical of final 12 months’s pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, however he appeared again to one thing like his greatest when he gained the Indonesia Masters in November with out dropping a recreation.
A again drawback then pressured him out of the next month’s World Tour Finals and world championships and he has struggled to generate any momentum for the reason that new 12 months.
– ‘No extra’ –
The enigmatic Momota has publicly stated little about his health and Pedersen says the lack of awareness means these on the surface should depend on “guesswork”.
“Has he been in a position to practise absolutely this 12 months? If he’s been restricted in his apply, that may very well be part of the reason,” he stated.
“If he’s practised one hundred pc from January 1 to now and he’s been hitting the health club and doing all of the badminton apply that he wants and that is the result, then there’s no extra, more than likely.”
Momota continues to be ranked quantity two on the planet however the factors system has been skewed by the coronavirus pandemic and he’s anticipated to plummet as soon as a more true image emerges later this 12 months.
He didn’t sound assured when he spoke to Japanese reporters in April, saying he simply needed “to do all I can at this second”.
“It makes me unhappy once I see feedback like ‘he’s not enjoying nicely’ or ‘the Momota of previous doesn’t exist anymore’, however I’m attempting to not pay an excessive amount of consideration to that,” he stated.
Momota suffered one other first-round defeat on Wednesday, this time to Danish world quantity 13 Rasmus Gemke on the Indonesia Open.
He appeared nicely off the tempo once more and stated afterwards that he “didn’t have the stamina”, blaming himself for making “so many errors”.
Momota has bounced again earlier than and can want to take action once more if he’s to be a power on the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Momota was banned from Japan’s 2016 Rio Olympics staff for playing at an unlawful on line casino.
The ban pressured him to play in smaller tournaments around the globe as he tried to climb again up the rankings, and despatched him on a successful run that took him all the best way to the highest.
Pedersen says enjoying commonly “offers you confidence, it offers you contact, it offers you accuracy”, and he believes Momota “positively wants to begin successful”.
“He must do good apply after which he wants to begin successful matches — loads of matches,” he stated.