Photo credit: Tang Shi
It is just a month ago Kento Momota from Japan beat reigning World Champions Viktor Axelsen comfortably in the final of Indonesia Open and three months ago he won the Asian Championships in a tournament where he only lost one game on the way to the title. Today Momota was up against Danish youngster Anders Antonsen and most people surely had the Japanese as big favorite. But…
Antonsen is not a person who gets easily impressed just because his opponent is one of the very best badminton players in the world. It is not even two years ago the Dane stated he was “the next one”. That was after his title at Scottish Open 2016. This year he has not really had any major results apart from winning the Danish Championships in February. You can probably not find any player with a bigger self-confidence than the 21-year old Dane and this also showed in the beginning of his match against Momota today.
Few minutes played, 6-0 for Antonsen. Momota did not seem ready at all while the Danish youngster was more than ready and seemed very hungry for something big. Maybe the Japanese had underestimated his opponent?! From here it was a one way game and the Dane won first game 21-13 without any problems whatsoever.
This must surely have shocked the Japanese player, coaches, fans, and basically all of Japan, and Momota really had to step up now. And it was a different Japanese we saw in second game. Much more serious, much more focused, much more into the game.
Nerve wrecking game
1-1, 4-4, 6-6, 8-8, 10-10… this was really nerve wrecking! The two players followed each other very closely. 11-10 for Antonsen at the break. Now it was time for a serious discussion for Momota and his coaches. Something had to happen! At the same time Kenneth Jonassen, the Danish national coach, told his player to take it easy, to take one point at the time. The Danes seemed quite calm – opposite what you can say about the Japanese.
The break helped Kento Momota though. The big favorite was a changed person now and it was Antonsen who was being set under pressure. Momota rapidly advanced to a 17-12 lead and it looked like he would take second game now. But a few perfect smashes later Anders Antonsen had made it 17-15 – would the Dane come back and make the sensation? 18-17 – if we were in Momota’s shoes now we would definitely begin to be nervous. But with a few extremely good rallies the potential sensation was postponed for at least some minutes. Momota won second game 21-17.
New explosive start from the Dane
Antonsen once again started best and rapidly gained a 3-0 lead. It was false expectations for the Danish team though as Kento Momota not only closed the gap again very quickly but also took 7 points in a row. The Dane couldn’t hold back the mistakes at the same time as there were hardly any mistakes from Momota who went to interval with an 11-5 lead.
The Danish player was upset with himself and probably frustrated that he had let Momota into the match again. Everything looked so bright after first game. But the mistakes kept on coming and the Dane simply didn’t have the same energy and speed anymore. Kento Momota was in full control now and there was no shaky steps toward the victory; 21-8 for the Japanese favorite in third game who could breathe easily again knowing that he had avoided a sensational exit in the round of 16.
So close for Anders Antonsen who surely is “the next one” as he has stated himself. And a warning to Kento Momota who should not take the gold for granted, even though he may be the big favorite in Nanjing.
Kento Momota vs. Anders Antonsen 13-21 21-17 21-7
Total points: 101
Length of match: 72 min
Points per minute: 1.40
Average seconds per point: 42.77 sec