World number one Kento Momota, whose positive COVID-19 test in January this year led to him and the rest of the Japanese team pulling out of three scheduled events in Thailand, has been named top seed for next month’s All England Open Badminton Championships.
The Japanese team will be back for the tournament set to be held at Arena Birmingham from March 17 to 21, and Momota has got top billing in the men’s singles ahead of the Dane who won the title in his absence last year, Viktor Axelsen.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) world rankings remain frozen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, so Momota is still world number one.
Axelsen’s compatriot Anders Antonsen, who defeated him in the BWF World Tour Finals that concluded the series of competitions in Thailand, is seeded third, with Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia ranked fourth.
Momota, who beat Axelsen in the 2019 All England final, missed much of the 2020 season after suffering a broken nose and injuries to his face after an accident while he was being driven to the airport after winning the Malaysia Masters.
In December, Momota won the men’s singles title at Japan’s National Badminton Championships – his first tournament since the crash.
Momota’s compatriot Nozomi Okuhara, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist and 2017 world champion, is seeded second in the women’s singles draw, with Spain’s Rio 2016 champion and three-time world champion Carolina Marín the top seed.
Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi is seeded third, ahead of Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, with India’s Rio 2016 silver medallist and reigning world champion from 2019 – PV Sindhu – seeded fifth.
Neither China nor Chinese Taipei are sending players to the All England Open, so neither of last year’s women’s finalists – winner Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei or China’s Chen Yufei – will be involved.
World number one men’s doubles pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – who missed the BWF World Tour’s Thailand tournaments after the latter player tested positive for COVID-19 – are also set to return to action at the All England Open, and are the number one seeds.