PETALING JAYA: Badminton fans worldwide will have to wait longer for the return of world No. 1 Kento Momota.
Momota’s much-anticipated return to competition will not take place after all at the Denmark Open when he and a host of compatriots surprisingly pulled out from the Oct 13-18 tournament in Odense.
Joining him in the list of absentees include women’s singles star Akane Yamaguchi, Keigo Sonoda-Hiroyuki Endo (men’s doubles) and Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (mixed doubles) – who are all the top seeds of their respective events.
The Japanese players who will still compete in the Open are Kenta Nishimoto (men’s singles), Nozomi Okuhara (women’s singles) and Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara, Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota and Chiharu Shida-Nami Matsuyama (women’s doubles).
According to reports in Japan, Nippon Badminton Association did not reveal the reasons behind the withdrawal of Momota and Co but it is believed that they were concerned over the spike in Covid-19 cases in Europe.
Denmark has recorded an average of 400 cases a day since mid-September.
The news will come as a massive blow not only to the tournament organisers, but also the Badminton World Federation (BWF), who are hoping to restart the season in the best way they can after the season was suspended since mid-March with the hosting of the All-England.
The tournament has already been hit by a spate of withdrawals by top Asian nations, and the participation of these Japanese stars was seen as the saving grace.
All eyes had been on Momota’s comeback as it had been nearly nine months since he featured in a tournament.
Momota had missed the last two months of action prior to the Covid-19 suspension after being involved in a road accident in Kuala Lumpur a day after capturing the Malaysian Masters in January.
With no more tournaments lined up for the rest of the year, Momota is expected to make his competitive return at the Japanese National Championships where he will be aiming to win his third consecutive title and a fourth overall.
Momota’s absence in Odense is expected to throw the competition wide open with world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan and Denmark’s No. 3 Anders Antonsen now tipped to be the men to beat.