KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 (NNN-Bernama) — The 2022 Malaysia Open is set to witness a thrilling final between world’s top two men’s singles shuttlers – Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and Japan’s Kento Momota – at Axiata Arena on Sunday.
The world number one and 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion Axelsen is gunning to end a 15-year Asian domination in the tournament, to clinch his third consecutive Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour title after having won the Indonesia Open and Masters recently.
Momota on the other hand, is still trying to regain his impressive form after the road crash in Kuala Lumpur that killed the van driver, hours after winning the 2020 Malaysia Master title defeating Axelsen in the straight sets, 24-22, 21-11 in January that year at the same venue.
Since the accident, Momota had only won the 2021 Indonesia Masters title last November and his worst outing being the group stage elimination in the highly anticipated Olympics held on home soil last July.
In tonight’s semi-finals, Momota took 42 minutes to beat Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand 21-11, 21-12 to secure his second final after losing to home favourite Datuk Lee Chong Wei in 2018.
Momota said after having gone through so much difficulties, he is happy to step into a final in the BWF World Tour Super 750 tournament.
“Honestly speaking, I have no confidence in today’s match, only tried to avoid making mistakes and move as much as possible and putting shuttle back into the opponent’s side. I will give my best in the final for the fans, especially the local audience, who is cheering hard for me throughout the week,” he said through an interpreter.
Axelsen advanced to the Malaysia Open final for the first time, defeating world number eight Jonatan Christie of Indonesia 21-15, 20-22, 21-11 after battling for one hour and 11 minutes.
“I really wanted to win very very bad, it will be great, but for now I want to focus on recovery and be happy on the semi-final win. We want to play against the best players in the world and Momota has such fantastic talent. I am so happy to see him back playing well and I wish him all the best and hope to have great match tomorrow,” he said.
The head-to-head record clearly on favours Momota with 14 wins in 16 meetings, while Axelsen bettered the former in their last meeting at the 2021 Denmark Open last October.
The last non-Asian to win the men’s singles title was another Danish shuttler Peter Gade in 2007, before former Malaysian ace Lee Chong Wei won the title for nine times, including seven consecutive wins from 2008 to 2014, while Chinese stars Chen Long (2015) and Lin Dan (2017, 2019) also tasted victories.
Meanwhile in the women’s singles, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei of China eliminated defending champion Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei 19-21, 21-13, 21-15.
Tzu Ying has lifted the title four times, including three consecutive victories (2013, 2017, 2018, 2019) before the tournament halted in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yu Fei is set to face 2016 edition champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, who defeated the former’s compatriot Wang Zhi Yi of China 21-8, 21-18 in another semi-final.
The mixed doubles final will witness a clash between reigning champions Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong of China and world number two Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand.
In the last four stage today, the 2018 and 2019 champions Si Wei-Ya Qiong cruised into final after smashing out top Danish pair Mathias Christiansen-Alexandra Boje 21-18, 21-8, while the Thai pair ousted another Chinese representative Wang Yi Lyu-Huang Dong Ping 23-21, 19-21, 21-14.
Si Wei was also the 2017 edition champion with his previous partner Chen Qing Chen.