PETALING JAYA: World No. 1 Kento Momota will be out to mark his long-awaited return in style by going for his third consecutive title in the Denmark Open from Oct 13-18.
The 26-year-old, who won the last two editions, is set to play in Odense after Japan confirmed their participation in the US$750,000 (RM3.13mil) event, the only tournament that remains in the schedule this year.
Momota is not the only star as Japan will head to Denmark with a full-strength side.
The Japanese side boast many top 10 shuttlers, which include world No. 4 Keigo Sonoda-Takeshi Kamura and world No. 5 Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe in men’s doubles; Akane Yamaguchi (No. 3) and Nozomi Okuhara (No. 4) in women’s singles, Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota (No. 1) and Wakana Nagahara-Mayu Matsumoto (No. 3) in women’s doubles; and Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (No. 5) in mixed doubles.
All eyes, however, will be on Momota, who will be making his first competitive return after a nine-month hiatus.
He had missed the last two months of action before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March as he was involved in a road accident a day after winning the Malaysian Masters in January early this year.
Momota can expect a stiff challenge from the likes of world No. 2 Chou-Tien-chen of Taiwan and world No. 3 Anders Antonsen, who will be the home favourite in the absence of Viktor Axelsen, who is still recuperating from a minor ankle surgery.
In the updated entry list published by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Friday, China have also withdrawn from the tournaments, which means their reigning Olympics singles champion Chen Long will not make the trip.
Besides China, the other top nations skipping the meet are Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
No thanks to the spate of withdrawals from the Asian nations, most of the events in the Denmark Open will be made up by mostly Europeans.
The mixed doubles competition, for instance, will feature only three Asian competitors in the 32-pair draw.
And thanks to these unprecedented circumstances, it is a dream come true for the likes of unheralded Norwegian men’s doubles pair Vegard Rikheim-Torjus Flaatten, the world No. 139, who earned themselves a rare opportunity of playing in a top-tier and lucrative event.